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No booing, no bullying at Council of Delegates meeting, BTF members say

Last week, an email from a BTF rep criticizing how the vote on teacher evaluations went down drew quite a slew of responses.

Overwhelmingly, those who emailed me and posted comments on the blog in response to that letter disputed that teacher's version of events at the union meeting -- and quite a few criticized me for publishing that email.

I want to present some of those comments here.

First, a recap of the email that touched off such a firestorm, and then a sampling of the responses.

The Council of Delegates voted unanimously -- with one person abstaining, out of a group of about 200 -- to maintain the student attendance provision in the teacher evaluation agreement.

That teacher's email criticized the general atmosphere in the meeting: "To say that meeting was run in a fair and impartial way would be like saying the sky is green... The supposed 'virtually unanimous vote' is a sham. It was coerced, forced, and bullied onto the rest of us."

Those who spoke in favor of the motion to keep the attendance clause in the teacher evaluation agreement were "met with public applause and standing ovations," while those who stood up to speak in opposition were "booed and told to sit down," the teacher wrote.

Then, when it came time to vote, the teacher said, Phil Rumore did not allow enough time for anyone opposed to the motion to voice their vote: "The three delegates from my building were not even able to open our mouths to vote no, because there wasn't time to do so." The teacher said that when there was a standing ovation, about 20 of the 200 delegates remained seated, "in my opinion because they were not able to support the vote."

The teacher said those with an opposing point of view were not given ample opportunity to express themselves.

And then, after the meeting, according to the email, the teacher and two others from the same building were verbally attacked for "not understanding the greater good."

Dozens of people who wrote in to dispute the account -- many of them being BTF delegates who were also at that meeting -- took issue with the part of the email that said those who tried to speak in opposition were booed.

"I was at the union meeting and there was no booing or intimidation. There was a room full of thoughtful adults who had considered the issue in its entirety," one reader, identified as BUFFED, commented.

Wrote another reader, Cuban61: "I was at the meeting last night. People were given time to speak and ask questions. I don't know what meeting the unnamed source was at, it was not the meeting that I attended. The only bullying I have felt lately has been from State ED."

Another reader, ALISON18, self-identified as a member of BTF's executive committee, wrote:

"I was at the meeting last night. I spoke and voted for keeping the clause in. NO ONE WAS BULLIED. Every delegate present had the chance to speak. If you are elected to a leadership position you should have the guts to speak up for your beliefs. The delegates that spoke for removing the clause were listened to and applauded even though they were not in the majority. The vote was taken and there was plenty of time for people to cast opposing votes. People didn't stand because, like myself, I was too tired!!! Delegates voted freely and were NOT coerced!!!"

Phil Rumore called me, as well, to refute the characterization of the meeting in the email, saying everyone had an equal opportunity to speak.

"There was plenty of debate on it. There was pro and con," he said. "There was no booing. I run a very respectful meeting."

Added Kelli Monaco-Hannon, in the comments online: "What was suggested in the letter is just not true. I, too, was present at the meeting last night. There were no boos and certainly no one was told to sit down when addressing the council of delegates. The only standing ovation happened at the end of the meeting after the vote was taken. None of the individual speakers were given a standing ovation.

"It sounds as if anonymous wrote the letter off the cuff and in a very emotional state. Perhaps he/she should have waited awhile before firing off an email vilifying his/her union brothers and sisters with a fictitious account of what truly happened at the meeting. May I suggest that the next letter Anonymous write be a letter of resignation from his/her position as BTF delegate in his/her school."

Monaco-Hannon was one of several people to suggest that the author of the email ought to resign as a BTF delegate.

"Awww, did snookums get scared at the UNION MEETING? Did you think there would be champagne and crudites, and that upsetting topics would be considered 'unrefined'? Time to grow up, pumpkin, and realize that the world is not rainbows, lollipops and roses. Do the right thing for your building and resign as a union rep. Have you never even seen a historical 'primary source' photo of a union meeting?" wrote SHORETHING.

NOREALLY wrote: "Sniveling to The News that the big mean teachers made you vote against yourself has got to be one of the most reprehensible and scurrilous acts I have seen from a so called colleague in a long time. Let me guess what your nickname would be if we ever had to strike. Hint: it rhymes with slab. Resign and let someone with the courage of their convictions represent your building."

Some of those responses to the email led other readers to respond to the responses.

"Thank you to NOREALLY and SHORETHING, for your bullying replies which confirm for Buffalonians that in fact an intimidating environment was created, and this teachers rendition of events is likely accurate," wrote BUFFCIT.

Another reader concurred.

"NOREALLY, your abusive response directly supports the anonymous teacher's claim that the climate in the room was hostile towards any dissent. Not many people would feel comfortable standing up in that kind of environment," wrote THEWORDSMI.

Several people took me to task for publishing the email.

"Shame on Mary Pasciak for publishing this article by Anonymous. I attended the meeting Wednesday night and Anonymous must be delusional because none of those blatant lies ever took place!" wrote POTOMAC98.

One commenter agreed with the email's version of events.

"I was also at the BTF meeting last night. My school (ECC 17) did overwhelmingly vote to remove the clause from the APPR. I agree with the letter in regards to the general climate and atmosphere of the meeting. It did not come across as a welcoming place for alternate views," wrote GREGJOHN99.

"I personally did not go to the mic, I didn't feel my comments would have changed any minds or votes. In hindsight, I do wish I had the chance to vote 'no'. As the vote was taking place, I turned to the other member from my school, and went to respond, but just couldn't do it fast enough. I paused, my fault. I could have said something, but with the vote outcome, didn't find it necessary."

The community dialogue about the teacher evaluations will continue to play out over the coming weeks and months, and my coverage will continue to unfold.

I appreciate all the reader input. I think having these sorts of conversations as a community is one of the best things we can do to move our schools forward.

- 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 |