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UNION HOSPITALITY

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore extended an olive branch to Buffalo school officials this month, in a welcome and praiseworthy effort to warm relations between the teachers' union and the school system's administrative leadership.

Rumore agreed to open the lines of communication, as he put it. Only good can come of that.

The union president's remarks and gestures are refreshing, especially after the September teacher strike. The strike got everyone off to a bad start, and was most damaging to the students.

However, that issue has long been settled and it's good to see these folks coming together, at least in social settings.

Last week, the BTF hosted a first-of-its kind dinner meeting for 36 representatives of the teachers' union and the school administration. The dinner was held in the Radisson Hotel & Suites in Cheektowaga, and although neither crow nor humble pie probably came up as menu items, this does mark a vital step in the development of a more unified approach by the union and administration.

The meeting offered participants a chance to discuss issues, in particular BTF concerns about paperwork, overtesting of students, special education, discipline, social promotions, transiency and so on.

One cannot quantify the importance of such discussions, and the hope is that they will continue into the future. Buffalo schools need to move forward, without the historical griping that's occurred between the union and administration.

Further, and maybe this is a long shot, there needs to be some sort of relationship between the union and the School Board. Since Rumore has called that relationship "nonexistent," it still may be a bit much to ask right now. However, he did say that "understandings will evolve there as well."

The winds of change are hitting Buffalo public schools, as indicated by a new contract for Superintendent Marion Canedo and massive school reforms. There's the oft-mentioned 10-year, $1 billion schools reconstruction and renovation project ahead, as well as numerous reforms being planned.

It's refreshing and hopeful to see positive steps being taken now, by the teachers' union and its president, to build a working relationship with a better chance to meet those challenges.

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