The teachers strike in Strongsville, Ohio is now entering its 5th week. Since the Strongsville Board of Education made their last offer, the Strongsville Education Association has made 3 counter offers that have been met with silence. The board's resistance to talk has been so extreme that a court had to order them to release public records. With this as a backdrop, we decided to travel up to Strongsville.
When we arrived we were met with the sight of hundreds of determined educators walking the picket line
After talking to them and listening to their side of the strike, it was clear to us that even after being out on strike for over a month, they were determined to secure a fair contract. It was also clear that the Strongsville board of education is being guided by special interests with an agenda and not the interests of the students and the community. This became even more apparent later in the day.
As the teachers marched up an down the sidewalk of the very busy road, they were receiving a tremendous amount of support from passersby,both in cars and on foot (a number of parents were walking the picket lines with the teachers).
Around 1pm, in the wind and cold, teachers and their supporters march to a common area to gather around a gazebo. Sen. Sherrod Brown was scheduled to address them.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Avon Democrat, called on Frazee to kick-start the stalled negotiations.
“Most importantly, students are not well-served when both sides are not sitting at the bargaining table,“ Brown said.
“Strongsville students deserve a settlement – now. But a settlement can’t be reached if the two parties aren’t talking. That’s why I joined teachers today – who told me how they want to be back in the classroom – and why I will keep in contact with the school board,” Brown said.
After Sen. Brown spoke, SEA President Linscott addressed her members and the crowd. She laid out the clear reasons why the strike has happened and why it continues. But more importantly she offered the board yet another opportunity to resolve the strike fairly.
In 2009 SEA and the Strongsville board agreed to binding interest arbitration should it be needed.
Again, in 2010 SEA and the Strongsville board agreed to binding interest arbitration. In both cases that course of action wasn't needed as agreements were made.
Yesterday, SEA once again offered to end the strike immediately if the board agreed to binding interest arbitration. The proposal can be read in full below.
Unlike in 2009 and 2010, the Strongsville board rejected this offer before the end of the day, once again demonstrating bad faith and a motive other than ending the month long strike. If their goal is to try and break the SEA, and it appears that that is their goal, they are going to fail. The hundreds of teachers we met, saw and talked ot yesterday were determined and resolved to continue their strike until a fair labor contract is agreed to.
The Federal mediator has called both parties back to the negotiating table today. Pressure on the Board is mounting as conditions inside Strongsville schools is deteriorating
Six Strongsville High School students recounted concerning conditions inside the school – overfilled classrooms, substitutes who did not know the material they were teaching and were not told where the regular teacher left off and an abundance of movies and study halls peppering the eight-period school day have become the norm, they said.
Pam Mullen, who has three children in the district, says her two youngest children at Muraski Elementary School are on IEPs for speech and reading.
“For over a week they did not receive the help they needed,” Mullen said. “My daughter tried her best to keep up, but it was too much. It led to melt downs and stomach aches.”
Mullen said she received a letter from the district saying no speech therapists had been hired yet, and she could not afford to hire one herself.
“This past month has been frustrating for my family,” she said.
Moser said some of her classmates who are on IEPs were left to fend for themselves at a time that was crucial for not just them, but the school district – Ohio Graduation Tests, which took place March 11-15, during the second week of the strike.
“Strongsville City Schools was thriving before this,” Moser said. “Now there’s no learning, no love and hallways are filled with dread.”
Junior Mathangi Sridharan painted the picture for those students who are in AP classes, high-level courses the district has struggled to fill.
Sridharan said students have been going over the material that will be covered in tests given next month by themselves – she and two other students have even taught some classes.
Other students spoke about the void of honors classes and extracurricular activities, including concerts and plays the students had spent months preparing for, but a common theme came up between parents and students, alike – the strike is on the brink of doing irreparable harm to the community.
The board has now had 4 opportunities offered to it by the striking teachers and has remained silent, refusing to negotiate in good faith. Let's hope they see sense and reason, and find a way to end this strike in a way that is fair to everyone, students, teachers and the community at large.