Members of the Buffalo Board of Education say their pay should be doubled -- from $5,000 to $10,000 a year.
The board passed a resolution late Wednesday asking the city's Citizens Salary Review Commission to reconvene to consider the pay hike. The panel can recommend an increase of any amount up to the $5,000 figure.
The measure then would require approval by the Common Council and Mayor Masiello.
Acting in the middle of a more than five-hour meeting, the board passed the pay hike proposal by a vote of 6 to 2, with one abstention.
Voting against the raise were North District member Deborah E. Bang, who recently joined the board, and at-large member John C. Doyle.
Board President Helene H. Kramer abstained. Jack Coyle of the Park District voted for it but said he would continue to draw just $4,800 a year because of the requirements of his disability benefits.
Earlier in the board meeting, Superintendent James Harris had backed down from his proposal to cut 20 percent of the vocational education program this fall.
He acted under pressure from vocational teachers, industry, labor and School Board members who heard extended arguments from both sides.
In the lengthy discussion, many board members said they would consider a five-year high school program for vocational students to meet all the new Regents academic requirements and obtain "vocational certification" from the state.
Thirteen vocational teaching positions were to be shifted away from four Buffalo high schools as part of a plan to place greater emphasis on academic course work. Harris and his staff wanted to prepare immediately to meet state requirements that students who enter ninth grade in 1999 pass five Regents exams to earn a diploma.
"Any cuts of vocational education programs should be put off," said Philip B. Rumore, president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation. "These programs give our kids real jobs -- real, meaningful, lifetime jobs."
Rumore pledged the union's cooperation in working out ways to comply with the Regents' order and in helping Buffalo students "obtain academic credit and a diploma leading to some sort of vocational certification" by the state Board of Regents.
Roger Kostecky of Alling & Cory, a printing firm, said transferring 20 percent of the vocational education teachers would be a serious mistake. He suggested expanding the vocational program and elevating vocational courses for Regents credit.
Ted Banks, a Buffalo vocational education teacher, reminded board members that the chairs and desks at which they were seated, the lights overhead and the cars they drove to the board meeting were created by vocational graduates.
"Businesses are looking for people to do this work," he said.
Teacher Otto Reinhardt complained that the number of vocational teachers in Buffalo Public Schools has dropped from 136 when he started 25 years ago to 93 today. The board should hire more of them, not reduce the number further, he said.
Harris responded that his intent was not to cut vocational education but to give those students more classroom time to prepare for Regents exams in academic subjects. He called on David W. Hess, assistant superintendent for secondary education, to explain.
"We once felt that vocational or business courses were for students who didn't excel in academic courses," Hess said. "But things have changed. The education commission has raised the bar.
"We must give all students the option so that at graduation they can choose college or business or vocational employment. We're not eliminating vocational education."
Hess also said the 13 positions to be shifted actually boiled down to just seven vocational educational positions after subtracting six teachers and administrators in other disciplines.
Nonetheless, after Harris bowed to School Board pressure and said the schools could begin this fall under the old class schedule, Hess warned that returning the positions would make the system "overstaffed to the tune of $500,000."
This prompted Rumore to comment that the real motive for the proposed program cut was financial and not entirely in response to pressure from the Regents.
Harris argued that not changing class schedules this fall is "a grave error" and said he could not justify sending vocational students to take Regents exams without sufficient academic class work.