Dr. James Williams, Superintendent of Buffalo Schools, the School Board, and district officials continue to balk at reinstating the attendance teachers similar to the elephant in the room in this cartoon. "Yeah, they see them...but nobody wants to talk about reinstating them!"
That's why the Attendance Offices in the high schools have been empty since 2005 staff by aides and other school personnel, lacking the powers attendance teachers have under Section 3213 NYS Education Law.
And the other elephant in the room employees classified as "Community Education Leaders" the district started hiring in 2003, now numbering about eight, assuming the former duties, roles and responsibilities of attendance teachers in central office, Family and City Courts when they don't have the certification in attendance or the requirements stipulated by Section 3213.
Attendance teachers had submitted a grievance through the Buffalo Teachers Federation but there has been no follow-up or feedback on the status of it from the district or the union.
Also, funds the City of Buffalo possibly provided for truancy intervention allegedly goes back into the city coffers to pay the salaries of 55 officers working in the schools under a Chief of Police hired after the attendance teacher laid off in 2005 as the Organizational Study of the Buffalo Public Schools Final Report revealed in July 2010.
Yet, there are no attendance teachers to arrest the truants, a power police officers don't have under Section 3213 of State Education law. And the Attendance Intervention Mobile (AIM) team in which police officers and attendance officers paired up to combat truancy and to arrest truants abolished.
The Buffalo Teachers Federation and the district ostensibly have been negotiating reinstating the attendance teacher since 2005. The arbitrator ruled in 2006 the lay-off was wrongful one, the district used it as a wedge to pressure the union to accept the single health carrier without negotiating it. So the district reaped all of the savings realized from the switch for themselves, including the salaries and health care benefits of the laid-off attendance teachers!
Unfortunately, the Appellate Court in Rochester ruled the district violated the contract, but vacated the part reinstating the laid-off teachers. The ruling finally issued in 2008 specifically stated these teachers were not "contractually entitled to job security," therefore, the district didn't have to rehire them.
Yet, the Appellate court ruled in error because the attendance teachers were "contract" teachers most of them tenure with permanent appointments, while some probationary and a few temporary. The court made no distinction between these three category of teachers and summarily vacated the part to reinstate all of them, including those with tenure/contract status who had permanent appointments.
Thus, the ruling is one of the most egregious violations of teacher tenure rights in the nation because tenure provides a teacher with property rights that come under the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution and must be afforded due process before its taken away, something denied to these teachers.
The district continues to negotiate vindictively, having lost the single health carrier case in four rulings--an arbitrator, NYS Supreme Court, Appellate Court and the Court of Appeals from 2006 through 2008. So, attendance teachers continue to be held hostages as the contract is negotiated.
In 2009, two years ago the Buffalo Teachers Federation asked the laid-off attendance teachers to fill out a form the district requested during contract negotiation in order to assess their liability if they reinstated the teachers but there has been no follow-up since the teachers filled out the form.
Therefore, attendance teachers are like the elephant in the room people know they still are waiting reinstatement, but no one seems to do it. While the families and professional careers of these teachers used as scapegoats continue in limbo as their financial situation worsen, causing some to face foreclosure of their homes, and a longer period of unemployment than expected.
Still, the district continues to neglect hiring these teachers for available positions in other areas of certification. Although the lay-off letter attendance teachers received from the district in July 2005 implied they would be hired in other positions in the district if other opportunities became available, they have not lived up to this commitment.
While, the laid-off tenured teachers were certified in other areas, though, the district interviewed many of them for other positions, including for administrative appointments from 2006 through 2010, they did not hire any of these teachers even though the lay-off letter from Human Resources in 2005 specifically stated "if other opportunities became available where they can use us."
Yet, after the State Education Department recommended Stepping Stone Charter School close in June 2006, the district hired the administrators, staff and teachers from this charter school while denying a similar opportunity for its own laid-off staff. The President of the School Board Mr. Ralph Hernandez at a School Board forum on May 2010, captured on a video camera, disclosed this information to the member of the audience how the district hired the staff from Stepping Stone Charter School.
Only one former laid-off attendance teacher, an African-American, hired last year in September 2009 as a school guidance counselor in the district. Why just one?
Sadly, besides the teachers suffering the devastating impact of a long lay-off, hundreds of school children equally denied an opportunity to attend school. And this has been the unfortunate and enduring legacy of the lack of attendance teachers in the schools.
The elephants in the room nobody wants to talk about.