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SCHOOLS ARE OPEN TODAY, TUESDAY; ALL AWAIT PROPOSAL

There will be no mystery for Buffalo parents this morning about whether their children will be in school; city teachers have pledged that they will remain on the job at least through Tuesday while a state mediator attempts to settle their nearly two-week-old labor standoff with the School Board.

But for parents still seething about having their children stranded Thursday when teachers decided not to report for work shortly after 7 a.m., Philip Rumore, head of the teachers union, has a message: Ask the School Board why busing was suspended the morning of a strike.

"There has been much said by the district relating to providing day care or some education for students, but once again the district wants to blame the teachers rather than running the buses and providing the services for the small number who might need them," Rumore said.

In a one-page news release issued Sunday by the Buffalo Teachers Federation, union officials said parents should ask the board why they have no assurance that - even if school is closed - buses will run and children will be picked up if they are at a bus stop or if parents are unable to secure day care. "The only reason the kids are stranded at the bus stop is because they have turned their buses around," Rumore said. The board has been beating up on us because we've had late meetings.

They're saying teachers are to blame because parents can't find day care or children are stranded out on bus stops.

Paul G. Buchanan, president of the Buffalo Board of Education, agreed with Rumore that the district shouldn't alter its morning school buses. But, it shouldn't have to either, he said.

"The buses should roll as normal, I agree. The teachers should be in school as normal. The students should be learning as normal," Buchanan said.

The board president said the BTF's suggestion would be moot if teachers would follow the law and report to class.

Buchanan followed by issuing a stern admonition and warning to the teachers' union.

"The BTF, I believe, has already caused educational harm to the children. But, if one single child is physically injured because the BTF is going on strike, I will personally make sure they will be brought to justice to answer to that abuse," Buchanan said.

Andrew Maddigan, spokesman for the district, dismissed the BTF's statement as an attempt to gain some weekend leverage in the media.

"This is Phil trying to grab headlines on a Sunday. It's typical distortion that this (suggestion) is somehow a better solution," Maddigan said.

Maddigan said the students who are picked up on the early bus rounds are taken to school and provided for over the course of the day if they are not first released to the proper parent or legal guardian.

"The second round of buses do not pick up the kids because by that time the announcement (of the strike) has been widely made," Maddigan said. "By no means do they turn around and drop kids back on the bus stop. We work closely with the parents and they understand we're in a crisis when teachers don't show up for work."

"We're not trying to blame teachers for anything. We have far and wide 4,000 of the finest teachers working for our district. The leadership of that organization, however, is suspect and that's where our problem lies."

In the meantime, both sides await Tuesday's proposal by a mediator from the State Public Employment Relations Board.

"School is Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday," Buchanan said. "(State Supreme Court Justice Kevin) Dillon has said teachers must go back to the classroom. I fully expect PERB will tell teachers to go back to the classroom."

"Hopefully we'll have a settlement by Wednesday and we can put this behind us," Rumore said.

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