Buffalo parent group upset with city teachers’ union

Feb 1, 2018

Some Buffalo Public school parents say they believe the Buffalo Teachers Federation (BTF) is attempting to 'sabotage progress' in the city school district. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says members of the District Parent Coordinating Council (DPCC) have two major concerns.

“They’re labeling our children in a way that’s not healthy and we’re not going to sit by quietly while they do that,” declared Sam Radford, DPCC president.

Sam Radford, DPCC president (speaking), Dunkin Kirkwood, Dr. Wendy Mistretta & Jessica Bauer Walker.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Radford is blasting BTF president Phil Rumore for releasing results of a teachers’ survey on student behavior.  More than 1,200 city teachers responded, but that's about a third of city teachers. More than 13-percent said disruptive student behavior is out of control. But Radford points out it's not a “scientific” survey and unfairly represents city students.

“This survey was a minority of the minority – we didn’t hear nothing about the majority of teachers thought. 70-percent of the teachers in the school district weren’t even surveyed in this survey and then of the teachers that responded in the negative – it was a minority of those teachers – so something is fishy about the way this was going on,” Radford remarked.

Parent group representative Dunkin Kirkwood is also critical of the survey. He said it jades how people perceive city school children.

“Which feeds into the reason that our children are perceived this way on the streets dealing with law enforcement, dealing with the real world – so we are perpetuating that in the schools and we feel like that’s a huge problem,” Kirkwood stated. “We believe that the Buffalo Teachers Federation has an obligation to fully disclose methodology employed in this survey, including the names of those responsible for designing the survey, implementing the survey and compiling the results reported in the survey.”

But on Monday reporters did question Rumore about the accuracy of the survey.

“The way the survey is set up – you can only input it once – then you’re done. I think it’s an accurate representation because the reason we did this is because when I have counsel with the delegates meeting – which is the reps from all of the schools – I asked them at the meeting how many people are having discipline problems at their schools – almost every hand went up,” responded Rumore. “The only think I can tell you is that a copy of this study was sent to the superintendent and we are hopeful he will join with us.”

The parent group is also blaming Rumore for drafting an agreement for teachers at City Honors to prevent them from performing non-teaching duties.  The district has hired 16-aides to cover non-teaching assignments. DPCC parent leader Dr. Wendy Mistretta said the district is forced to cut nearly six teaching positions at the school in order to pay for those aides.

“The loss of those five and a half positions, in the middle of the school year – we’re going to have a bunch of kids who have to be reassigned. It’s going to mean larger class sizes, it’s going to mean loss of teachers that the kids are attached to. It’s a horrible distraction at the school. It’s very upsetting to our students and it’s very upsetting to the teachers – many of whom don’t want this to happen. They are willing to take the settlement – they happy to do the duties – it’s really okay with them, so I think what we are asking right now – what we really need are facts,”  Mistretta described.

The school district will transfer those teachers to other schools.  

Parent Jessica Bauer Walker, who also serves as executive director of the Community Health Worker Network of Buffalo, also spoke out in response to the BTF report on disruptive behavior.

“We know right now the district is supporting Positive Behavior Intervention – things like restorative justice and practices and trauma informed care,” Walker noted.  “It’s really important for us to remember that 75-percent of our Buffalo Public school students are coming from a background of poverty and that there’s a lot of challenges associated with that.”