City Honors School students staged a walkout Friday afternoon in protest over the Buffalo school district's plan to cut a half-dozen teachers at the school on East North Street.
Roughly 85 students at City Honors, a grade five to 12 school with more than 1,000 students, walked out of the building just after 1 p.m. Friday, the last day before next week's February break. They stood across the street holding signs and chanting "Save Our Teachers."
The student protest was part of the ongoing controversy involving the labor dispute between the school district and teachers union, which could result in cutting 5.5 teaching positions from the school. The matter is now in court with further proceedings next week.
Earlier in the day, Principal William Kresse used the school's public address system to ask students not to walk out of classes.
"First, I want to let you know that I feel your concern," Kresse told the students, according to an email the school sent to school parents. "Over the years I have worked hard to grow our faculty to expand staffing in the arts, counseling and reduce class sizes. These are valuable employees and colleagues, and no one wants them here more than me.
"Secondly, I need to ask you not to do this," Kresse said. "While intentions are positive, it takes away from your teacher’s time to prepare for your classes, and causes a disruption to the students who are still engaged in the school learning environment. And we are concerned for your safety."
Kresse also cast doubt on how effective walking out on classes would be.
"The two parties making the decisions on these matters are not here in the school," Kresse said in his public address announcement. "They are at City Hall, and they are at the teachers’ union headquarters at Porter Avenue. You have a right to express your opinion on this matter and have a right to be concerned, but disrupting our school does not get the message to the people who make the decisions. I always encourage you to be principled and risk takers, but I also want you to do it in a way that is effective, and civil."
Kresse credited students who on Wednesday addressed a school board meeting about the dispute.
"We had courageous students who expressed their concerns about the potential loss of their teachers in a civil but eloquent fashion," Kresse told the students. "These statements had a powerful impact and left a positive impression. Students encouraged both sides to find solutions and work things out. You should be as proud of those classmates as I am. Their passion and maturity was incredible. As a result, I think both the school board and the teachers’ federation understand how much damage could be created. I do not want to see the good work and positive messaging of your classmates tarnished."