The Reynoldsburg School Board held its first public meeting since the district’s teachers voted to authorize a strike two weeks ago. As with the previous meeting, the venue was packed with teachers, students and community members, all opposed to the boards contract proposals. They had a simple message - the community deserves better.
In two packed board meetings now, not a single person has come forward to express any support for the 4 members of the Reynoldsburg school board pushing this extremist agenda. But instead of listening to the mounting chorus of objections to their plans, they continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on out of town lawyer and strike breaking firms like Huffmaster, which the board voter 4-0 last night to hire in case a strike occurs.
The teachers, members of the Reynoldsburg Education Association, issued a statement August 8 after authorizing their bargaining team to call a strike at its discretion. Their 10-day notice of intent to strike, said the teachers, is a “continuation of our fight for the schools that Reynoldsburg students deserve, including a reasonable class size limit and a means of addressing the unprecedented teacher turnover in our district.”
Parent Debbie Dunlap, who has three children attending Reynoldsburg schools, said community backing of teachers has increased. “The support continues to grow. We hope the board members are truly hearing. We keep reminding them we are the stakeholders. And we’re not a few; we’re many.”
The teachers and the district failed to reach an agreement after meeting with a federal mediator this month. There is no word on when the mediator will be called back. The current contract expired July 31.
Since January, 54 teachers have left the district, including four whose resignations the board approved tonight. The total represents 20 percent of the district’s teachers. Twenty-eight teachers left during the same period the year before. The district has 6,200 students.
Parents of students are growing increasingly critical of the board’s refusal to heed community input.
In a letter to the school board, parent Beth Thompson wrote:
I firmly believe that this contract proposal will push high-quality teachers far away from Reynoldsburg; the very same teachers who have pushed our students and schools to become a model of innovation and to earn marks like Excellent and Excellent with Distinction in recent years. Basing a teacher’s pay increase on merit is an insult to teachers who collaborate, who we love and who treat our children with love and respect. This proposal disrespects the level of commitment these teachers have brought to our children for years.
Teacher and REA spokesperson Kathy Evans told local news station NBC 4, “Of course we don’t want to strike, but our students, teachers and community deserve a contract that invests in classroom priorities and builds a strong foundation for student learning.”
Students returned for the new school year August 13. Teachers, said Dunlap, continue to pour their energies into their students, regardless of the board’s actions.
“It has been very, very stressful for teachers,” said Dunlap. “But what has happened time and time again is teachers telling us, ‘Thank you. We couldn’t do this without your support.”
Dunlap said parents have been “awakened,” and she predicted community support will grow moving forward. “This momentum will not stop, even with a new contract. What happens here will affect not only our children but other children in Ohio and across the country, as well as educators.”