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SCHOOL CUTS WON'T AFFECT BUS SERVICE, SECURITY

Despite $28 million in budget cuts, Buffalo students will be bused to and from school, just as they have in better times. And when they get to school, the security force charged with keeping them safe will remain intact.

"Security was a top priority," said Superintendent Marion Canedo. "And how do we accomplish anything if the kids can't get to school?"

But things won't be the same in Buffalo's classrooms.

Extra help for struggling students will be largely eliminated. Extracurricular activities will be canceled unless teachers supervise them without pay. Reading recovery teachers will no longer go from school to school to work with students. And eight fewer attendance teachers will be checking up on students who are absent.

The decision to cut 577 jobs was complex.

Sports programs -- both interscholastic and intramural -- were fully maintained, but extra assistance for pupils at the city's six lowest-performing elementary schools will be slashed by 60 percent.

Third-graders will continue to receive instruction in art, music and physical education, but 34 teachers who help design and manage classroom programs will be let go.

Canedo said her overriding goal was to protect direct services to students as much as possible, to preserve mandated programs, and -- if other factors were equal -- to cut programs that might be restored through grants or other funding sources.

About 320 of the layoffs -- including the elimination of 60 teacher aide positions -- were outlined in documents approved by the Board of Education on Wednesday.

But the board left another 237 job cuts to the discretion of Canedo and her top assistants, who are now considering their options.

Donald A. Van Every, chairman of the board's Finance Committee, said that reflects the confidence the board has in district administrators.

"I think there was careful thought and good intelligence used in making recommendations," he said.

Jack Coyle, the only board member who voted against the package, said he objected to the 60 percent cut in extra help for six low-performing elementary schools that are under state review.

In addition, Coyle said, more than 24 administrative jobs -- only 16 of which are currently filled -- should have been eliminated. "I think they could have gone a little deeper there," Coyle said. "My no vote meant: 'Could you take another look at this?' "

Jan Peters, the board's Central District member, said the administrative cuts were proportionate and fair.

"I'm not one who believes we can run a school district without administrators," she said. "We're way beyond the one-room schoolhouse."

Officers of the Buffalo Teachers Federation met with district officials Friday to discuss complex contractual provisions regarding layoffs, which are based largely on seniority.

Philip Rumore, BTF president, said he wants to be sure that where there is flexibility, procedures are designed to protect the jobs of veteran teachers. "You reward people who have been loyal to the school district," he said.

e-mail: psimon@buffnews.com

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