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Union rejects classes before Labor Day Rumore blames ill will with officials for pushing start to Sept. 9

As a result of another dispute between officials and the system's teachers union, Buffalo Public Schools won't start classes until Sept. 9, a full week after many suburban districts.

The Buffalo Teachers Federation's governing council "overwhelming rejected" a proposal to begin classes before Labor Day because of "anger and resentment" toward school officials, Philip Rumore, union president, said Tuesday.

Superintendent James A. Williams said the decision harms students academically and athletically.

"I think the community should be outraged about this," he said.

At the request of school officials, a tentative plan was worked out for teachers to report Aug. 31 and for classes to begin Sept. 1, Rumore said.

The system's teachers contract requires formal union approval for school to begin before Labor Day and for the school year to run more than 42 weeks, which would have been the case under the tentative agreement.

But the union's Council of Delegates voted down that plan largely because of harsh feelings resulting from contract violations, the unwillingness of school officials to listen to teachers' concerns and the lack of a new contract, Rumore said in a letter to Williams and the School Board.

That decision forces the system to delay the start of classes until Sept. 9, which allows less instructional time before the state's English language arts exams are given in January, Williams said. It also cuts short practice and game opportunities for fall sports teams, he added.

"It's a terrible, terrible contractual issue," Williams said. "You need more flexibility to meet the needs of our children."

Rumore said teachers are angry that the system asks for their cooperation, yet violates the contract on single-carrier health insurance and other issues.

"They have continued to violate our contract over and over, forced us into court, and now they want us to waive a section," his letter said. "No!!"

He also said school officials ignore teachers' concerns about "mountains of burdensome paperwork [and] oppressive and detrimental regimentation of teaching and learning."

The pre-Labor Day start was included in a calendar presented to the Board of Education earlier this month and was expected to be formally approved at a meeting this evening.

"We agreed to it, and that's why we brought it to the board," Williams said. "This is [Rumore's] calendar. I just think it's very unfair to the students."

e-mail: psimon@buffnews.com

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