Interview: Phil Rumore

Investigate Post launched an interview program Sunday with WGRZ 2 On Your Side featuring an interview with Phil Rumore, president of the Buffalo Teachers Federation.

In the interview, Rumore said reaching an agreement on teacher evaluations will require more than consensus on how to account for student absenteeism. The quality of standardized tests and the English language proficiency of students also need to be considered, Rumore said, as well as how to evaluate teachers on the academic performance of special education students.

He disagreed with those who say the school district is failing students.

“I don’t think the schools are failing the students. Do we have too many failing students? Yes,” he said.

The BTF president also contended the district is hamstrung by a lack of funding, despite an annual budget of some $900 million.

“Many of the pieces aren’t in place because of funding,” he said, starting with much smaller class sizes.

When asked about putting the teacher evaluation issue to a vote of his 3,400 members, Rumore said the union has done just that through building-by-building balloting. But when asked for a breakout on the vote, Rumore said he wasn’t sure because voting methods varied between schools.

“I don’t know how the 3,400 fell,” he said, while adding: “I am confident that the delegates are reflecting what happened in the buildings.”

He also accused state education officials of treating students as “pawns” by threatening to withhold aid if an agreement isn’t reached.

Rumore, who has lead the BTF for 31 years, said he anticipates seeking another two-year term next year. When asked if he’s made up his mind, he said “not completely,” but  added: “As long as there is is unfinished work out there and as long as the teachers will have me, I’m leaning towards running again.”

The video above runs 3:50 and includes an exchange between Rumore and Investigative Post Editor Jim Heaney regarding the dispute between the BTF and state education officials on teacher evaluations.

The complete interview ran about 25 minutes and can be viewed below in three segments that run seven to eight minutes each.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

For a differing perspective, read this Q&A with parent leader Sam Radford.