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Why the teacher transfers violate the contract

As today's story notes, an arbitrator ruled that the district's decision to transfer 54 teachers as part of turnaround plans at three schools violates the union contract.

What's worth noting is that the arbitrator points out that the contract does not universally bar involuntary transfers.

Rather, it's the way the district went about transferring the teachers that violates the contract.

In her ruling, Jacquelin Drucker said that the portion of the Buffalo Teachers Federation contract that addresses transfers "imposes limitation only in that it requires that, 'whenever possible,' transfers are to be done on a voluntary basis and that in making involuntary transfers, 'the preference of the individual teachers shall be honored whenever feasible.'"

That portion of the contract, the union has said, provides teachers with the chance to discuss an involuntary transfer before it is finalized. The union also has pointed out that in the past, involuntary transfers have only been done on an individual basis.

The arbitrator writes that, while that portion of the contract and district guidelines for teacher transfers "appear to anticipate transfer of individual teachers for individualized reasons, these contractual provisions do not work to preclude the district from determining that involuntary transfers en masse are required. And while there were indeed was uncontradicted testimony that all involuntary transfers, other than closings and reductions in force, have occurred only as to individual teachers, this historical situation does not give rise to a binding past practice that limits the district's authority in this regard.

"Thus, from these facts, the arbitrator cannot conclude that non-individualized involuntary transfers are barred. As the district has countered, there is nothing in the contract that restricts the district from determining to implement involuntary transfers."

In other words, the district would have been within its rights to involuntarily transfer teachers -- if it had played by the rules of the contract.

There are three ways the district broke those rules, the arbitrator determined:

1. The district did not take into account the preferences of teachers being transferred.

2. Some of the people on the screening panels in the three schools were not certified teachers or administrators. Those on the panels included a UB student, a parent and a grandparent, among others.

3. The screening process should have been approved by the district's Professional Council, and it wasn't.

Here's the full decision from the arbitrator:

Arbitration Decision 8-29-12

- 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.

@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 |