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Another Voice: Teachers shouldn't be performing 'absurd' duties at City Honors

By Philip Rumore

When City Honors School was conceived, the founders realized that if students were going to do an advanced curriculum, wherein they would take International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) courses, teachers would need to be available to students for extra help – meeting with students completing IB projects, etc. Teachers with the AP and IB college-level course loads would need extra time for student support. Teachers were (with the blessing of the district) relieved of non-instructional duties. Many faculty members write upwards of 30-40 recommendation letters annually. The IB program requires teachers to advise students on IB extended essays and projects outside of their course loads. The teachers want a return to an open door policy in all schools where students could come for help when teachers do not have classes.

In 1995, the district imposed non-instructional duties on teachers. A grievance was filed, and a settlement removing the duties was signed by the district on Jan. 20, 1999.

In September 2010, in violation of the settlement signed by the district, teachers were again assigned non-instructional duties such as front door desk duty, locker room door supervision, bathroom “sweeps,” supply/copy machine duty, etc. When teachers approached administration about the duties, they were told, “Grieve it.” So a grievance was filed.

The teachers attempted to reach a settlement, but were ignored. Teachers believe that it is a waste of resources to have teachers in any school doing, front door duty, hallway duty, locker room door supervision, supply/copy machine duty, etc., when they could be supporting students.

The district spent thousands appealing the arbitrator’s ruling and then not complying with the judge’s order upholding the arbitration decision, while paying outside counsel. The BTF has provided the district with time to find ways to address the situation, such as hiring part-time aides to cover lunch duties and using just a few aides to cover supervisory duties. However, the district continues to insist on 16 aides to cover the non-instructional duties. Many of these duties did not exist before 2010, e.g. “calendar duty,” “supply duty,” “lost and found duty” and “bathroom duty,” to name a few.

Teachers have asked what would happen to the aides who have been hired if they settle and choose to do some duties. The teachers have been told that the aides will go elsewhere in the district. Why remove teachers from City Honors if the district is able to pay the aides regardless of their building placement?

The district has lost an unwinnable case. It’s time to provide the support the students need, and access to all of their teachers. No teacher should be assigned to such duties.

The Buffalo School District must start putting students first rather than other “priorities” – not just at City Honors but at all of our schools. Teachers should not be doing these absurd duties. They should be available to their students for assistance and support.

Philip Rumore is president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation.

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