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Teachers may shift on start of year Would allow classes before Labor Day

The Buffalo Teachers Federation is likely to reverse course and agree to a request from school officials to start classes before Labor Day, Philip Rumore, union president, said Thursday.

The Board of Education had voted unanimously Wednesday night to ask the union to reconsider its decision to turn down an early start.

"I haven't decided yet, but my guess is that I will be urging them to give a favorable response to the board request," Rumore said. "I think that if I ask them to do it, they'll do it."

The Buffalo Local Action Committee, a community group that takes an active interest in education, also asked the union to reconsider.

"This dispute between the union and district has gone far enough," said Samuel L. Radford III, the group's co-chairman.

Rumore said he will ask the union's Executive Committee and Council of Delegates to reconsider the issue once he receives a written request from the Board of Education.

While he did not make a recommendation before the earlier Council of Delegates vote, Rumore said he now is leaning toward recommending approval of the revised school calendar.

School officials want teachers to report Aug. 31 and classes to begin Sept. 1.

The union's Council of Delegates turned down that request because of harsh feelings resulting from what Rumore called contract violations, the lack of a new contract and the unwillingness of district officials to listen to teachers' concerns about paperwork and regimentation of teaching.

That decision, reported Wednesday by The Buffalo News, prompted widespread public criticism and a board resolution sponsored by Ralph Hernandez -- the West District board member, who has a good relationship with the union -- asking it to reconsider. It passed unanimously Wednesday night.

Rumore said the union's response will depend in considerable measure on the content and tone of the board's formal request.

"The key will be what the board's letter says," he said.

Rumore also stressed that both school calendars contain 182 days of instruction and simply rearranges them over the course of the year. "The students are not being shortchanged in any way, shape or form," he said.

Vacations would be adjusted so that the school year would end at the same time under either calendar.

Superintendent James A. Williams had said that the initial decision would force 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. It also would cut short practice and game opportunities for fall sports teams, he added.

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

The 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 be the case under the Sept. 1 start.

e-mail: psimon@buffnews.com

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