More than 300 Strongsville teachers and supporters jammed a tension-filled School Board meeting Thursday, hours after the Strongsville Education Association filed an 10-day strike notice.
If an agreement on a new contract is not reached by March 3, teachers will strike March 4.
A negotiating session is set for today, and another is tentatively scheduled for Monday.
Developments in the situation Thursday:
SEA Holds Press Conference
The nearly 400 members of the SEA met in the auditorium at Strongsville High School, where they overwhelmingly took a vote of "no confidence" in the school board.
SEA President Tracy Linscott said the board has "continually failed to properly fund the district" and is now going to "build buildings the district does not need and cannot afford to run."
Linscott also said the board got teachers to agree to millions of dollars of cuts in their last contract by promising new revenue from a levy, then told voters not to approve it.
Over the last nine months of negotiations, teachers were presented with a "shock and awe" proposal, she said. Taking their concerns directly to the School Board proved futile.
"They continually have taken the easy way out," Linscott said.
The Board Responds
At the subsequent board meeting, School Board President David Frazee read a statement that said "we have long provided our teachers with one of the best compensation/benefit packages in the state."
The board's contract proposal "reflected current economic realities," he said.
"Frankly, it is hard to comprehend why a strike notice was issued when we are still in negotiations," Frazee said. "The teachers will lose their pay and benefits while they are on strike."
Frazee and other board members also challenged the teachers to make their contract demands public, offering to post both the SEA's proposals and the board's on the school district website.
Teachers and Supporters Speak
An estimated 100 teachers filled out requests to speak at the board meeting, but public comment was limited to an hour, which allowed about a dozen people to talk.
Jennifer Williams asked whether the district could find enough substitutes to cover all the classrooms, or it students would be herded into large groups.
Amy McMillan questioned the company Strongsville may hire to handle the strike, reading from a 2006 newspaper article that says Huffmaster hired strike security personnel with criminal backgrounds during a strike near Sandusky.
Superintendent John Krupinski said any employees, including substitute teachers, hired to fill in during a strike would be certified and undergo background checks.
Students Chime In
Mathangi Sridharan, one of two student liaisons to the school board, ended her monthly report with an emotional message of support for the teachers, dissolving into tears as she and co-liaison Jordan Kelley got up and walked away from their seats with the board and joined the teachers in the audience, to cheers and a standing ovation from crowd.
Kelley later went to the podium to charge that Krupinski had called his mother, threatening to oust him as liaison if he did not remain neutral on the strike issue.
Krupinski said he called Jordan's mother because he was concerned about putting him in an uncomfortable position.
"I wanted to be protective of them as students," Krupinski said.
A small group of students attended the meeting to back teachers.
"We value our teachers. We support our teachers," SHS senior Lyssa Gwinn said. "They supported us for 12 years."
She later charged that students were pulled out of class -- at Krupinski's direction, she said -- for posting a pro-teacher comment on Strongsville Patch.
Krupinski said he would never take that type of action against a student.
"They have every right to post on Facebook and Patch," he said.