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Rumore affirms stance on school turnaround

Buffalo Teachers Federation President Philip Rumore remains steadfastly opposed to a school turnaround model that involves moving the principal and half the faculty from failing schools.

"We will not sign off on summarily moving half the staff," he said Monday. "How does that improve education? The students have a relationship with these teachers. It's ludicrous."

Rumore said he also opposes turning any of the failing schools over to a charter school management organization.

That effectively leaves only one federal turnaround model that Rumore would support -- hiring outside educational partnership organizations to run the schools.

But the state education commissioner has explicitly said Buffalo must employ a combination of turnaround models or risk losing up to $42 million in federal funds.

Buffalo Public Schools officials have until Jan. 1 to submit revised turnaround plans for seven schools.

Last week, State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. said the district must employ a variety of turnaround models for its next round of applications for school-improvement grants rather than use a "cookie-cutter approach."

Buffalo interim School Superintendent Amber M. Dixon has reiterated to the School Board the state's directive to implement a variety of turnaround models.

"Amber's challenge is, how do you get from everyone agreeing there's a problem to everyone agreeing on a common strategy around the solution?" King said.

Dixon has had district officials meeting with teachers and parents at the seven schools in an effort to determine a stakeholder consensus on the best turnaround model for each.

The district has four options at each school: close it; move the principal and half the faculty; bring in an outside educational partnership organization, or EPO, to run the school; or bring in a charter management organization to run it.

District officials have issued a request for proposals from educational partnership organizations and charter management organizations interested in running each of the failing schools. Dixon has dubbed it a "fishing" expedition to see what proposals are submitted. The deadline for proposals is Nov. 17.

No decision will be made on which model to use at each school, she has said, until the stakeholders at each building submit their input and the proposals from outside groups are reviewed for each school.

Rumore told Buffalo News editors and reporters Monday that he rejects the notion that the state would not accept EPO plans for all seven schools.

"I've heard it said, but don't believe that the state will not approve all EPOs," he said. "If you have really top-flight people out there [as potential EPOs], that's really dumb."

In the spring, district officials had planned to move more than 200 teachers at seven failing schools as the cornerstone of turnaround plans in those buildings. However, Rumore made it clear he would not sign off on such plans -- so the School Board chose a turnaround option that Rumore supported, which involved hiring an EPO to run each school.

The board was not satisfied with the proposals it received for four schools -- so it submitted no turnaround plans for those, thereby losing or at least delaying up to $6 million in aid per school over three years.

EPO plans for three schools were submitted by the board, but the state rejected those, saying the district lacked adequate means to monitor and work with the outside groups.

Rumore said he objects to turning any of the failing schools into charters. If a charter management organization took over a school, he said, it would be able to eliminate the teachers union contract there.

The BTF president said he opposes charter schools because he believes they drain money from the district, have the option to send difficult students back to the district and do not have to service students with severe special needs.