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Rumore turnaround view resisted

A leader of Buffalo's parent group and a member of the Board of Education said Wednesday that the district cannot afford to concede to teachers union President Philip Rumore's steadfast opposition to turnaround plans that would move teachers or turn schools into charters.

Rumore told The Buffalo News this week that the only federal model he will support to turn around failing schools is one that involves bringing in outside educational partnership organizations to help run the schools.

But State Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. has said the state will only approve plans that reflect a variety of models. The district has until Jan. 1 to submit plans for seven schools. Buffalo is eligible for up to $14 million a year over three years -- a total of $42 million over that period -- for the schools.

Samuel L. Radford III, vice president of the District Parent Coordinating Council, urged the School Board to do what is necessary to qualify for the federal aid.

"As the DPCC, we really want to be good partners this year. But at the same time, we cannot allow ourselves to be bullied by the Buffalo Teachers Federation," he said. "In our opinion, the board lost $14 million in resources it could have had for this year."

District officials had planned to use a turnaround model for 2011-12 that requires moving half the staff out of each school. But Rumore opposed the plan, saying it would be chaotic, and said he would not sign off on it.

In May, the board voted to proceed with the model that Rumore backed. The board did not find outside partners that it liked for four of the schools and did not submit plans for them, and submitted plans for three other schools -- which the state rejected.

Radford invited district and board officials to the parent group's meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Makowski Early Childhood Center, 1095 Jefferson Ave., to discuss plans for the failing schools. Teachers are welcome, too, he said.

"If it turns out the same way it turned out last year, we're not going to sit idly by and say, 'Oh well, we lost another year,' " Radford said.

North District board member Jason McCarthy said he was outraged by Rumore's comments. Board members, he said, are willing to make changes to improve the schools and win the federal turnaround funds -- but Rumore is blocking progress.

"He's handcuffing us," McCarthy said. "Essentially, he's putting us on a path to losing another $42 million. It has to stop -- either through the teachers rebelling against it or the community rebelling against it."

Board member Mary Ruth Kapsiak of the Central District noted that the state cited several reasons for rejecting Buffalo's turnaround plans for the three schools this summer.

"The teachers union isn't the only reason we lost out on the money," she said.

Interim Superintendent Amber M. Dixon said district officials have been meeting with parents and teachers at the seven failing schools to determine which model the stakeholders in each building support for their school.

"We plan to bring forward plans for those schools that are in the best interest of the children," she said. "I'm optimistic we'll do the right thing."

In an interview this week, Dixon said the state had made it clear that it will not approve seven plans that all employ the same turnaround model.

"I can't tell you what will emerge, but it won't be seven identical models. I plan to continue working with Mr. Rumore," she said.

"At the end of the day, this is about student achievement in low-performing schools, and they must be our first priority."