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When Young Teachers Are Laid Off

Our names are Anna Blatto and Phedra Benoit. We are students of City Honors School at Fosdick Masten Park and we are entering the 10th grade. Recently, some of our best teachers, all of whom we have either had or interacted with, have been laid off. These teachers are Mr. Patrick Cooney, Ms. Kristy Chimera, Mr. James A. Moses, Mr. Jason Mahn, Mr. Ray Kelley, and Ms. Rachel Smith.

We believe it is of the best interest of our school community and our personal education standards if these teachers are not dismissed, and are able to return to City Honors for the 2011-2012 school year. Four of the seven teachers that were terminated are crucial to the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, which makes City Honors what it is. Most of the students who come to City Honors come because they were promised the opportunity to take advantage of this pre-college program, which is now being ripped from under our feet by the laying off of the teachers who make it possible. Although the subject of hiring new teachers to teach these IB classes has been discussed, training each of these teachers would cost an additional $15,000 each, which is absurd seeing as beyond perfectly capable teachers have already been trained. It would certainly be a waste of money if teachers who are not used to the City Honors curriculum were trained, costing the district an additional $60,000.

The idea of “last in, first out” (LIFO) is, in our humble opinion, as well as in the opinion of many others, absurd and dysfunctional. It is not fair for the younger teachers, or even those who haven’t been teaching in a district for a long period of time, to be at the most risk for being laid off. It is, in fact, the younger teachers that are often the better ones. They are fresh out of college, new to the system, and they have more energy, enthusiasm, and charisma.

All of the teachers who were laid off are important to our education and our extracurricular activities. Ms. Rachel Smith teaches English 9 and AP Lit and is in charge of the City Honors Novice Girls Crew, and in the upcoming school year would have been in charge of both Novice and Varsity Crew for Girls at City Honors, leaving the City Honors Girls Crew teams without direction. She is also in charge of City Honors Quiddich (a team sport based on the game Quiddich, played in the Harry Potter series). Mr. Jason Mahn teaches AP Global 10 and is one of the IB teachers, teaching History of the Americas. He’s also the coach of the Varsity Girls Soccer team, Junior Varsity Girls Basketball team, and Assistant Coach of the Varsity Boys Baseball Team. Mr. Ray Kelley is a crucial IB teacher, teaching Theory of Knowledge, a course required of all IB students for two years, and also teaches Seventh Grade English. Besides that, Mr. Kelley is the teacher proctor of the City Honors Model United Nations team. Mr. James A. Moses, another IB teacher, teaches IB World Lit, as well as English 9. He is also very involved in the City Honors Music Program and Gay Straight Alliance and is a teacher who will always listen regardless. Ms. Kristy Chimera teaches Geometry and Algebra; and, at the end of the year, as preparation for the Regents Exams, Ms. Chimera organized after school study sessions for all of her students. She also puts in hours of her own time preparing the prom for juniors and seniors. Mr. Patrick Cooney, another IB teacher, teaches IB Math Studies as well as Geometry and is in charge of Masterminds, a club that, like Quiz Bowl, allows people to answer questions about certain subjects in a very limited time. This year, his coaching helped the City Honors Masterminds Team to win the New York State Masterminds Championship. Mr. Cooney is completely dedicated to his job; for example, during one school day, he suffered from a collapsed lung and had to be rushed to the Emergency Room. He returned to school for a visit the following day, and was working again full-time the day afterwards. Both Ms. Chimera and Mr. Cooney organized a Regents Prep, where they administered and reviewed an entire Regents exam, after school, for our benefit.

The release of these teachers leaves no Geometry teachers, no English 9 teachers, only two English teachers for the entire high school, one Seventh Grade English teacher, one AP Lit teacher, and the loss of four IB classes: Math Studies, History of the Americas, World Lit and Theory of Knowledge.

We would love for this issue to get more public, so that other people throughout the City of Buffalo could understand what is happening to teachers at City Honors, and to plenty of other teachers throughout the district. It is unfair to them that the concept of LIFO puts their jobs in jeopardy, just because they are younger teachers.

> Anna Blatto and Phedra Benoit, Buffalo

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