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Board still mulling residency for Buffalo teachers

The Buffalo Board of Ed on Wednesday once again kicked around the idea of rescinding the residency requirement for district employees -- but it was clear that Ralph Hernandez was not going to get enough votes that night to support the move.

The usual arguments were floated in support of rescinding the requirement, namely: some quality candidates might shy away from the district because of the residency rule; people don't like to be told where to live; most large districts do not have a residency rule; and the residency rule can't be effectively enforced anyway. Mary Ruth Kapsiak and Pamela Cahill came out in support of rescinding the rule, and teachers union president Phil Rumore pled the case for reversing the policy, too.

There wasn't much Wednesday night in the way of arguments specifically in favor of keeping the residency rule in place. But a few board members advocated the idea of offering financial incentives for employees to move into Buffalo -- either in place of a residency rule, or as something to complement such a rule.

At large board member John Licata suggested the board should not voluntarily concede to rescinding the residency policy. "It strikes me that when we have a contract that's still being negotiated... I've learned from my children how to negotiate -- you don't just give it away without something in return."

Rumore recoiled at the thought. But Superintendent James A. Williams seemed to like Licata's idea.

"There are two things we need," Williams said: an earlier notification date when teachers decide to retire, and a modification of the teacher transfer policy. "We cannot continue to transfer 500, 600 teachers in the district (every year). That's what I want to see attached to this."

Rumore agreed that there shouldn't be hundreds of transfers a year -- but he had a different take on things.

"If you're happy at a school, you're not going to apply for a transfer," Rumore said. "I would ask this board, rather than just looking at the transfers, dig deep."

The board decided to send the residency issue back to committee, so a decision will be at least a month away.

- Mary Pasciak

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Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

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Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

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