Fight continues to save teaching jobs at City Honors

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - City Honors students walked out of their high school around 1 p.m. on Friday all in support of their teachers.

"Just to show the teachers that someone wants them to stay someone cares about them," Naggy Omar, senior class president said.

Dozens of students outside chanted, "save our teachers." 

City Honors parents are also rallying to support to help save about five teaching positions at the school and one parent is braving Buffalo's cold weather to do it. Sean Mahoney has spent the past three school days marching in front of the Grade 5-12 school on East North Street.

Buffalo Public Schools is set to cut 5.5 teaching jobs at City Honors on February 27 if no agreement can be made with the Buffalo Teachers Federation.

The dispute centers around teachers at the school performing "non-teaching duties", like monitoring lunch periods or study halls. A long-standing agreement exempts teachers at City Honors from performing these duties, whereas the duties are commonplace for teachers at all other city schools.

A group of parents plans to share concerns with the Buffalo Board of Education during its meeting Wednesday.

"I'm scared for what's going to happen here and I'm also angry that it came to this," Mahoney said. "That we have to be out here."

Mahoney marched alongside Bill Stephens Monday afternoon in front of the school. Stephens has two grandchildren who attend City Honors. Both men just hope the district and union can come to an agreement that keeps the teaching jobs in place this year and in the future.

"I don't know exactly what the answer is," Stephens said. "But the answer is not to cut teachers in the middle of the school year. That is not the answer."

In 2010, the district stopped hiring aides to handle "non-teaching duties" at City Honors and started to shift those responsibilities to the teachers. The union filed a grievance that this decision violated an agreement between the parties. In 2016, an arbitrator sided with the BTF and that decision was upheld in State Supreme Court.

The district has since relieved City Honors teachers of these "non-teaching duties" and hired 16 aides to handle the tasks. In order to balance the school's budget, the district will need to remove 5.5 teachers from City Honors.

These are the jobs the district has decided to cut, effective February 27:

  • Math teacher
  • English teacher
  • Band teacher
  • Music teacher
  • Instructional coach
  • Reduced hours for one guidance counselor

The teachers will be reabsorbed into available positions throughout the district.

The district offered to pay each teacher at the school up to $7,000 for performing these duties since 2010, so long as teachers agreed to continue performing them going forward. The union responded by agreeing to lunch and study hall duty, but want it to be a voluntary duty for teachers. The union also asked for a stipend to teachers for monitoring lunch.

No agreement has been made and there are no scheduled meetings between the groups before February 27.

Students are on February break next week and that's when the dispute heads back to court. 

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