A battle has resurfaced in the Buffalo pubic schools that has embroiled many in the district, union and community, including the state education folks holding up promised grant moneys if the district and the unions fail to comply with submitting an acceptable teacher evaluation plan. But the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) attached a provision that test scores of students absent 20 percent of the school should not count in the evaluation.
Yet, the elephant in the room are the attendance teachers that neither the district or the union want to talk about especially what happened to these teachers that has caused the high absenteeism in the Buffalo Schools today.
After school board laid-off the attendance teachers from the buffalo schools six years ago in 2005, during the dispute over the single health carrier insurance in a court battle that lasted nearly three years, the attendance of Buffalo school children suffered.
Instead of reinstating the attendance teachers lawyers for the district successfully argued before the Appellate Court in 2008, it should vacate the part recalling the laid-off teachers after Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) prevailed in the single health carrier dispute.
So six years later after the arbitrator ruling in 2006, that the laid-off teachers should be reinstated with back pay plus interest, the Appellate Court vacated it.
Hence, the reason for the district wide educational neglect of Buffalo school children over the six-year period from 2005-2011, as the result of this dispute.
While the attendance of Buffalo school students continue to decline and worsen, the former superintendent James Williams still balked at reinstating the laid-off attendance teachers. When the School Board voted to allocate $500,000 to recall the attendance teachers in 2011, Williams attempted to link it with the BTF dropping its grievance involving back pay for the laid off teachers, while the BTF called it an improper practice.
Also, it had become a personal issue for Williams called the attendance teachers "band aids on cancer" in an interview in the Challenger, the local African-American press.
And reports in 2010 such as the Joint Intervention Team surfaced indicating the attendance of Buffalo school students especially in the high schools continued to be a problem effecting the academic achievement, drop out and graduation rates.
In an effort to assuage the problem, the district hired a consultant Hedy Chang to investigate the high absenteeism in the Buffalo schools in 2010 and what she found was alarming especially after she disaggregated the district average daily attendance (ADA) data. It revealed the chronically and severely absent students worse than expected.
So the job of the attendance teacher was rewritten as though it alone would fix the problem, while three attendance teachers were recalled as part of the feds Race to the Top state improvement grant.
And six other attendance teachers were recalled and two newly hired as the result of the Buffalo Board of Education wrestling with former embattled superintendent James Williams to allocate $500,000 that he continue obstructing until the issue forced him to retire early and the demise of his top associates.
In 2012, the high absenteeism of Buffalo students is back on the media limelight because of a controversial provision Phil Rumore, President of then BTF attached to the teacher evaluation system that would not count students absent 20% of the school year.
The state threatened to hold up $9.3 million of SIG moneys, while both the school board passed a resolution asking Rumore to delete the provision, and the District Parent Coordinating Committee (DPCC) Voted similarly but added a threat to encourage parents to pull their children out from the persistently low achieving schools in September. Interim Superintendent Amber Dixon appealed to the teachers union through an open letter.
What must be done is the district should reestablish the attendance department it abolished in 2003, hire a director elevate it as part of the superintendent's cabinet along with full time attendance teachers in the high schools and one full time attendance teacher for every two elementary schools in the district until the problem is remedied and attendance stabilized again, including developing the infrastructure both in Central Office and the school buildings to support the attendance initiatives.