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And Rumore's response to the board

School Board President Lou Petrucci sent a letter to BTF President Phil Rumore last night, asking the union to reverse its position on the student attendance clause for teacher evaluations.

"The point is that your stand, however well argued or heartfelt, will result in a direct loss of funding to our lowest performing institutions," Petrucci wrote. "The children who attend these schools cannot afford to wait for a long drawn out court action. Their exams will not be deferred until a legal decision is reached. Members of your union may be laid off because their positions were predicated upon receipt of this money. The line that you have drawn in the sand is both damaging to student achievement and expensive to both organizations."

Rumore responded today, placing blame squarely in Albany: "It is the Commissioner and Board of Regents who are unreasonably and unconscionably using our students as pawns."

Read Rumore's full letter:

Dear Mr. Petrucci,

            Thank you for your letter of 03/04/2012. Unfortunately, I must disagree with most of its content. 

            First, it is not Buffalo teachers who, in our opinion, are illegally and immorally responsible for withholding funding from our students based upon a section in our APPR that has nothing to do with the education of either the students with horrendous absenteeism problems or those who attend school regularly; but rather, it is the Commissioner of Education, apparently speaking for the Board of Regents, who is withholding these funds and who has stated that he will not approve an MOU that contains any reference to student absenteeism.

            The student absenteeism issue is being decided by a vote of all the teachers in all schools. The vote will be conveyed by the Delegates vote at our Council of Delegates meeting. The vote will determine whether a teacher’s evaluation should be based upon the test scores of students who are illegally absent for 6, 7, 8 or more weeks of the school year i.e. whether the absenteeism section in our APPR should be removed. I believe any fair minded person would agree that basing a teacher’s evaluation on students whose attendance in school is close to nonexistent is wrong.

            Indeed, it is the Commissioner and Board of Regents who are unreasonably and unconscionably using our students as pawns.

            Buffalo teachers would have hoped that you and the other Board members would focus on the people who are withholding the funding as the source of the problem and be laying the ground work to appeal this arbitrary, capricious and, we believe, illegal action.  We also urge you to join us by utilizing all legal means to secure these wrongfully withheld funds.  

            As for your absurd and inaccurate representation of our position that “The basis for your objection to the proposed teacher evaluation method is the causal link between instruction and student achievement. You do not believe that if a student has not had enough instruction time in the classroom, the teacher should not be held accountable. Yet, by placing conditions and thus eliminating the funds, and by relation teachers, you are causing the very situation to occur that you are raising objections over. Our lowest performing schools will lose the additional instruction that these students need if they are to perform at the highest level that they can.” The teachers that you refer to are there now teaching, the students are not. You can add or subtract teachers; however, they cannot instruct empty desks.

As this is written, I do not know the outcome of the vote by the teachers in the buildings. Regardless of the vote, we would hope that you and the Board would direct your attention to the perpetrators of this outrage, the Commissioner and Board of Regents and not your teachers. Teachers give their all for their students, they have no power to force their students to attend class and they cannot teach empty desks. 


Philip Rumore

- 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.

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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.

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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.

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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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