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Board rescinds teacher residency rule by 5-4 vote

A nine-year-old residency rule requiring public school teachers to live in the City of Buffalo was rescinded Wednesday by the Board of Education, effective immediately.

The resolution, sponsored by School Board President Ralph Hernandez, narrowly passed, 5-4. It will allow the district to choose from a larger pool of teacher candidates, while eliminating the requirement that newly hired teachers, with some exceptions, move into the city within six months or risk losing their jobs.

The resolution included an amendment by board member Rosalyn L. Taylor that will give job applicants who opt to live in Buffalo a "10-point hiring preference" added to their hiring score. A second resolution asks the district to "create incentives" that encourage teachers to live in the city.

"Trying to dictate where teachers live as a way to promote community is putting the cart before the horse," said board member John Licata. "If you promote the best schools, then the people will move into the City of Buffalo and that will help promote the community on a larger scale."

Board members Pamela Cahill and Louis J. Petrucci, who voted against the resolution, said they hear from residents all the time about the importance of keeping the city residency requirement for teachers and other professions.

A resolution offered by board member Christopher L. Jacobs that would have prevented anyone in the school system making more than $150,000 from earning separate outside income was referred to the Finance Committee.

It came on the heels of a story in The Buffalo News last week that revealed several top-ranking district administrators earning six-figure salaries were making $9,000 to $22,000 a year in the district's Leadership Academy, funded by a private grant.

Earlier, an overflow crowd listened to more than 20 parents, teachers and concerned citizens plead with the board to reject two potential school closings, expressing concern and anger that parents' and teachers' sentiments were not being taken into account.

Some urged that School 61 at Leroy Street and Grider Avenue on the East Side be kept open. Others asked that Campus West remain at Buffalo State College after its lease ends June 1, or that the nearly 800 students remain together if they are to be relocated, with several urging that Gregory Mott be retained as principal.

"We want all of us to be together. We want our principal, we want our teachers, we want our students," Sharon Wall said.

Superintendent James A. Williams, who left the room along with board member Florence Johnson after a speaker directed heated remarks toward them, returned to tell those assembled no decisions had been made.

"One question we have to answer is if it's not 61, then what? We have to answer that question, and right now we don't have an answer tonight," Williams said.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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