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Enough votes to overturn residency rule for Buffalo teachers?

Buffalo Board of Education President Ralph Hernandez made an impassioned plea to his fellow board members Wednesday night to repeal the residency rule for district employees.

As the policy now stands, employees of the Buffalo Public Schools must live in the city (unless they were hired before 1992, when the residency rule went into effect). New hires get six months to comply. Some teachers -- those teaching in "high need" areas, which currently include special education and math -- are exempt, by virtue of a 2002 amendment to the residency policy.

Hernandez argues that requiring teachers to live in the city restricts the potential talent pool unnecessarily.

Buffalo neighborhood "We need to get the best and brightest. We should have no barriers whatsoever in looking out there to attract best professionals out there," he said. "Nowhere in the roles and responsibilities of a board member is it stated the Board of Ed is responsible for growing the population of the city, generating revenues or protecting the integrity of the tax base. That’s not the responsibility of the Board of Ed. That’s why they have a Common Council."

Of the 50 biggest school districts in the country, only two have a residency policy, he said. In Buffalo, Superintendent James A. Williams supports repealing the residency policy, Hernandez pointed out, as do the president of the teachers union and the president of the administrators union.

Granted, the full board was not there Wednesday when Hernandez made his presentation at a committee meeting -- Vivan Evans and Mary Ruth Kapsiak were not there -- but none of Hernandez's colleagues on the board spoke in support of repealing the residency rule.

"I do believe residency needs to be tweaked a little, yes, but rescinded, no," Lou Petrucci said. "Granted, it does limit the pool (of job candidates). But  other things have a larger impact, like having lower salaries than our suburban counterparts, or not hiring people until September or October."

Florence Johnson said she thinks it's important for teachers to be stakeholders in the community they work in, to help advocate for those who have trouble advocating for themselves. Jason McCarthy agreed.

"I just feel that teachers, they need to be invested in our community," he said. "By being invested in the community, they have to live in the neighborhoods, in the borders of the city."

The board could vote on residency as soon as next week. But you don't have to wait that long to weigh in.


- Mary Pasciak

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About School Zone

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.

@denisejewellgee |

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.

@DeidreWilliamsB |