Mamie Till Mobley

"There was an important mission for me, to shape so many...young minds as a teacher. God took away one child but...(gave) me thousands. And I have been grateful for the blessing." Mamie Till Mobley

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

State appointed team cited Attendance a problem in Buffalo high schools

A state appointed Joint Intervention Team issued a report calling for sweeping changes in seven Buffalo Public schools designated as persistently lowest-achieving.

The high schools cited as "persistently lowest-achieving" in the Buffalo News paper on Tuesday, August 16, are Lafayette, Riverside, Burgard Vocational High School, Bennett High School, South Park High School, and two elementary schools International School #45 and Martin Luther King Jr. Multicultural Institute.

Attendance in these high schools today range from a low 74% at Riverside to 81% at Bennett High School, according to the statistics in the report.

And attendance in all these high schools was higher before the District laid off the Attendance teachers in 2005, only Grover Cleveland had the lowest. After Attendance teachers laid-off, the Attendance rates in all these schools declined gradually year after year as in the case of Riverside High School from 86% to 74%.

What is shameful is district officials continue to argue the merits of whether the Attendance teachers should be recalled and rehired. It has been on the negotiating table since the appellate court ruling in 2008 while the attendance rates plummeted yearly, causing the low graduation and drop-out rates in these high schools.

Yet, missing from the report is the Buffalo Public School System at one time had a stellar Attendance Department that district officials gradually whittled down and chipped away at it until abolishing it around 2002, replacing a director with a supervisor while removing the Attendance teachers from the schools, railroading and warehousing them in an empty building formerly the old Kensington High School after it closed. In retrospect, the decision to down-size an essential department in a large school district as Buffalo behooves revisiting. Why?

And in July 27, 2005, in a dispute between the district and the Buffalo Teachers Federation over the single health care carrier issue, the district laid-off fiftheen Attendance teachers essentially it wiped out an entire faculty except for three of the most senior ones to oversee a district of 40,000 students. Why?

That's why attendance rates started to drop yearly, the Joint Intervention Team report, calling for an Attendance Policy again. How is it that a large school district as Buffalo doesn't have an Attendance policy mandated by the Commissioner's Regulations dating back to the year 2000?

Although the lay-off letter the district sent to the Attendance teachers on July 27, 2005 assured them they were "working around the clock" and would consider them for other positions should any become available, except for one African-American Attendance teacher rehired in another tenure area as a guidance counselor at School #89 in September 2009, none of the other teachers were offered a similar opportunity, continuing laid-off six years later while their status supposedly is on the table during current contract negotiations. Why?

The BTF sent a letter to the attendance teachers back in 2008, a form letter asking questions regarding their employment status allegedly the district at a meeting with union officials requested the information. School officials wanted to know what they had to pay back when they recall and rehire them. But there has been no other contact with the BTF or the district and teachers feel things are in limbo. Mean while attendance rates continue to decline. The Joint Intervention Team cited attendance as a problem in the report.

And in 2008, the Appellate court issued a ruling on the single health carrier insurance case, vacating the part calling for rehiring of the Attendance teachers wrongfully writing in its decision that the teachers were "not contractually entitled to job security."Yet the majority of the Attendance teachers laid-off had tenure and had "contract" status with the district.

While the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) prevailed in the dispute with the district over the single health issue, the district did not have to rehire the attendance teachers though the court should have made them rehire the tenured ones with contract status. Why the district allowed to abolish the jobs of tenure teachers without cause? Likewise, why did the BTF allow it to happen? What implications does it have for tenure teachers in the Buffalo Public Schools in a similar situation in the future? And why is it taking so long to settle this matter? It certainly is having a devastating impact on the education of the students in the Buffalo schools reflected in the report the Joint School Intervention team cited.

A teacher who has tenure a permanent appointment after successfully completing a three-year probationary period can not be removed without cause and afforded a hearing. When a teacher has tenure they have property rights in their jobs protected under the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In the case of the Attendance teachers their positions were abolished without cause or a bonafide reason--though the district reasoned the lay-off were done to prevent mid-year cuts in the schools back in 2005--in violation of their property rights. The mid-year cuts never happened ever since the district collected over a million monthly in the savings it realized through the single health carrier insurance it had imposed on the teachers without negotiation it.

And, the Appellate Court wrongfully decided to vacate the part of re-hiring the Attendance teachers though most of them had tenure a permanent appointment therefore "contractually entitled to job security," something they ruled these teachers didn't have, why?

The Buffalo teachers have been without a contract since July 2004, six years during the five-year tenure of Superintendent Williams while the Buffalo Board of Education extending his contract in June until 2014. The issue of re-hiring the laid-off Attendance teachers supposedly is on the table during the current contract negotiations. It's a pity the status of these teachers continues in limbo because rehiring them would jump start the horrific declining attendance rates in the high schools as well as help to decrease drop-out rates and increase graduation rates since all of the high schools cited in the report had from 44% to 48% graduation rates.

What is it going to take to compel the district to rehire the Attendance teachers? It's time the community demand the Board of Education rehire the Attendance teachers immediately.

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Whitney Tilson (3rd background)

Whitney Tilson (3rd background)
"Let’s be honest: we need a lot more well-off, well-educated white folks with a personal stake in both charter schools and education reform in general if we’re going to take reform to the next level, both politically and operationally.Whitney Tilson, hedge fund manager and major funding angel for the school privatizing Democrats for Education Reform, thinks there’s not enough rich, educated white folks.( Preaprez) click photo to his blog.

Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan
U.S. Secretary of Education, click photo