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BTF to ask judge to stop transfers

The Buffalo Teachers Federation will be in court on Thursday in a bid to temporarily stop involuntary teacher transfers at three low-performing schools.

The transfers violate the union contract in several ways, BTF President Philip Rumore says.

"The school district and union must agree to a modification of that agreement," he said in an affidavit. "Not surprisingly, a school district cannot just unilaterally violate lawful contracts for federal money."

The union is asking State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Whelan to stop the transfers until an arbitrator can rule on whether they violate the collective bargaining agreement.

"While the district is in the process of analyzing the allegations made in the suit and preparing its defense, it is confident that it has complied with all pertinent state and federal laws and regulations, as well as the BTF collective bargaining agreement," Superintendent Pamela C. Brown said in a statement in response to a Buffalo News inquiry.

The district in December submitted improvement plans for seven schools. The School Board opted to hire outside groups to run four schools. And for three schools, the board chose the turnaround model, which requires that at least half the teachers be replaced.

The state Education Department in May approved $5.14 million in federal funds for the turnaround plans at Bilingual Center 33, Futures Academy and Drew Science Magnet.

According to the most recent estimates released by the district, the number of teachers who will have to be transferred are: 18 teachers at Bilingual Center, 19 at Futures Academy and 13 at Drew.

Teachers at the three schools had to decide at the end of the last school year whether they wanted to remain in their buildings. Those who did went through an initial screening at the end of June. District officials were planning to do a second round of screening the last week in July, but have agreed to hold off until after the court date, Rumore said.

He is asking the judge to stop the transfers for now, and then essentially expedite the arbitration process so that the matter is resolved before school starts in September.

"The transfer of these teachers in these schools will necessarily produce a cascading effect of transfers of the teachers in the other schools, creating a web of teacher movements and even layoffs that will be virtually impossible to unwind and necessarily disruptive to students and staff throughout the district should it later be determined to have been improper," Rumore said in the affidavit.