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Buffalo School Board united in negotiations with teachers union

The Buffalo School Board unanimously agreed that it will broaden direction to the district’s negotiating team to provide raises for teachers in exchange for more work rule flexibility. This is the first time the board has come together to outline a common set of district priorities around which specific proposals will be based.

Though the positions of the board are not surprising, the rare show of unanimity among all nine members is.

This is the second time the divided board has voted with one voice regarding its approach to negotiations with the Buffalo Teachers Federation. The board previously voted unanimously to hire Long Island-based lawyer Terry O’Neil as the district’s new chief negotiator. Since hiring O’Neil, the district has met in closed session several times to discuss its priorities and objectives now that negotiations are once again moving forward after stalling in the month of May.

At least 10 bargaining sessions are lined up between the district and the BTF between now and Sept. 1. The two sides will meet again after their long hiatus on Tuesday.

“It has been the consensus of the board that we establish our position and resume negotiations as soon as possible,” said Interim Superintendent Donald Ogilvie. “This will enable us to do that.”

The resolution, which includes five broad points regarding teacher compensation, training, staffing, instructional time and economic givebacks, will serve as the basis for the district’s negotiating team to develop more specific proposals.

“It’s important that we have the board demonstrate it’s unanimous in reopening negotiations,” Ogilvie said.

BTF President Phil Rumore said the resolution states nothing new that board members have not previously expressed.

“It’s what they’ve been saying for a long time,” he said. “Really, it says nothing. The bottom line on this is, actions speak louder than words. We’ll see what happens when we get to the table.”

The union had previously filed a legal complaint against the district for canceling negotiations in May while the board sought a new chief negotiator.