The Strongsville School District has issued a statement about teacher negotiations in which School Board President David Frazee says he now believes "a teacher union strike is inevitable."
Frazee said in a phone interview that he had hoped negotiations would bring the two sides closer to an agreement, but "the progress we've been making has been just, well, none."
"I honestly thought we'd have an 11th-hour settlement, but I now believe teachers want a strike," he said. "They're packing up their boxes (in classrooms)."
On Tuesday, a representative of the Ohio Education Association also said it appears a strike is likely, saying board members have "dug their heels in" for a prolonged work stoppage.
The School Board's statement, released about noon on Wednesday, says that while negotiations will continue, "the actions and negotiation tactics of the Strongsville Education Association (SEA) negotiation team as well as the menacing behavior of teachers at board member homes and the negotiation site lead us to believe that a strike is what the teachers’ union desires."
Teachers on Monday protested in front of all five school board members' homes and have also been outside some of the negotiating sessions.
The statement mentions calling police in to ensure safety during negotiations.
Frazee said such protests have prompted him to cancel a special executive session set for tonight. He said board members wanted to talk about the status of the negotiations, but attorneys representing the district told him they feared for the safety of the school board, staff and visitors.
"I was obligated to cancel the meeting," Frazee said.
The SEA issued a 10-day strike notice last week and will stop working March 4 unless a contract settlement is reached. A final negotiating session is set for Saturday morning.
Today's statement, issued by the Strongsville Board of Education:
"As a result of Monday, February 25 negotiations and teacher demonstrations, the Strongsville City Schools Board of Education Board of Education strongly believes that a teacher union strike is inevitable, according to David Frazee, board president.
“While we still have until midnight on March 3 to negotiate, the actions and negotiation tactics of the Strongsville Education Association (SEA) negotiation team as well as the menacing behavior of teachers at board member homes and the negotiation site lead us to believe that a strike is what the teachers’ union desires,” said Frazee. “The board and I are extremely disappointed with the teachers’ actions. Of course, we are still in negotiations and hope that a strike can be averted. The Board continues to negotiate in good faith. We presented a contract proposal that reflects the economic realities of these difficult fiscal times.”
It was reported that the police had to be called to ensure the safety of the Board members and negotiation team.
Strongsville City Schools have installed “pay to play” cost savings measures and reduced expenditures. Expenditures in 2009 were $74,630,680 and were reduced to $67,240,464 in 2012, a decrease of $7,390,216. If the Strongsville City Schools continued on its current path, projected deficits are $1,193,135 for 2014; $4,677,231 for 2015; and $10,863,811 for 2016.
In anticipation of a work stoppage, the Strongsville City Schools is planning for this eventuality. “All of our efforts place the safety, security and education of our students first,” said John Krupinski, school superintendent.“We will keep the community informed about meetings with our federal mediator as well as actions we are taking to prepare for a worst case scenario,” said Krupinski. “We will ensure that our schools remain open and a safe learning environment for our students with licensed teachers, who have cleared the state required background check, in place. We have already identified a significant number of substitute teachers and are putting procedures in place to help us make a smooth and orderly transition to a substitute teaching team.”
The Strongsville City Schools Board of Education seeks community input and welcomes your questions. As a part of this process, the board reminds the community to write firstname.lastname@example.org to connect to the school board or visit our website at www.strongnet.org."