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BTF vote was "coerced, forced and bullied onto the rest of us," union rep says

Last night at the Hearthstone Manor in Depew, nearly 200 members of the BTF's Council of Delegates debated, then voted on, the student attendance clause in the teacher evaluation agreement. The result: a nearly unanimous vote, with only one person abstaining.

I was not allowed into the room, so I can't tell you first-hand what happened.

What I can tell you is that one of the union reps I heard from afterward sent me an email that described in some detail what took place inside the room when the vote was taken.

Here is that email in its entirety, published here with the permission of the teacher who wrote it (but on the condition that I not identify the teacher):

I was one of the nearly 200 teachers that were in attendance tonight at the BTF Counsel of Delegates Meeting.  To say that I am outraged at the meeting would be an understatement.  To say that meeting was run in a fair and impartial way would be like saying the sky is green. 

The meeting got particularly upsetting when discussion began on the motion to keep or remove the clause.  Teacher after teacher got up and complained about the District, the State, the students, and the parents.  Each teacher made their own individual pitch as to why we should all vote to keep the clause in the [annual professional performance review] document. 

Teachers in support were met with public applause and standing ovations.  Several teacher stood up to talk in opposition to the motion, and they were booed and told to sit down.  As alleged professionals, in the same union, showing "solidarity", how one member can blatantly be rude and outright disrespectful to a colleague is beyond me.  If their students acted that way in class, they would be outraged, and you can guarantee they would be removed by Security immediately. 

Let the outrage continue...  Phil stopped discussions at point to remind everyone that (not exact) "legally you do not have to vote here tonight in accordance with your buildings.  Morally, you may want to, but legally you do not have to."  If we were asked by the BTF to assemble the teachers in our buildings, take a vote, and bring those results back to the Council of Delegates, how can you be encouraged to not vote that way?!  That is absolutely and utterly absurd.

Now, let's talk about the vote itself.  Phil asked all those in favor to say "Aye".  A majority of the delegates did respond.  He said "all those opposed"... and waited no more than 2 seconds for a response, before moving on the abstentions.  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 only reason there was an abstention, is because that teacher cut Phil off while he was announcing the "unanimous" vote!  While the Council of Delegates stood up for a standing ovation, there were at least 20 people that remained seated, in my opinion because they were not able to support the vote. 

Never in my tenure as a BTF Delegate have I experienced such obvious irresponsibility on behalf of the teachers of the Buffalo Public Schools.  To admit that layoffs may come as a result of this decision, and turn our backs on the newer younger crowd, because we "have paid our dues and put the time in" is the biggest lack of solidarity imaginable.  The fact that myself and two other teachers from my building were verbally attacked after the meeting for not "understanding the greater good - you're new, what do you know" and "it's for your future". (Oh yeah, when I'm unemployed will I have a future?) 

I have always been proud to be an employee of the Buffalo Public Schools.  I take my job seriously, and strive to teach every child to the best of my ability.  Today, I can officially say that I am absolutely ashamed to be a member of the Buffalo Teacher's Federation.  We have screwed up big time.  The supposed "virtually unanimous vote" is a sham.  It was coerced, forced, and bullied onto the rest of us, costing millions of dollars and countless jobs.

Way to go Phil.  Always the best for the kids, right?

- 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.

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