Ruling like it’s 1968

A former member of the Buffalo Teachers Federation named Lynn Seagren Bass took to the pages of the The Buffalo News today to berate the union’s longtime leader, Phil Rumore, a man whom Bass identifies as “the ultimate guardian of the toxic status quo, a broken system that hurts children.” Bass’ moment of clarity came in 1996, she says, when she became a parent in addition to a veteran school teacher of 14 years. She joined a school-based management team that she says eventually eroded her early idealism as she watched union representatives “openly prioritizing their contract over progress.”

That was due to a culture, Bass writes, nourished by a union chief who executed a “doublespeak strategy” of publicly embracing innovations while fueling “distrust and adversarial relationships.”

[Rumore] seems to think it’s still 1968. According to him, his organization is blameless and system failure is always someone else’s fault. In reality, no miraculous “educational partnership organization” can possibly succeed with the unreasonable constraints of the current contract …

… In 2006, I gladly escaped to become principal of Tapestry Charter High School. Our second graduation was June 27. Our graduates represented every Buffalo ZIP code and had 61 percent free and reduced lunch rate. Nineteen percent had special education accommodation plans and our population was 63 percent African-American and 6 percent Hispanic. Our graduation rate was more than 90 percent. We’ve created a positive school community with a dedicated group of professional educators. Parents are given a valued voice.

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BY Adam Emerson

Editor of redefinED, policy and communications guru for Florida education nonprofit