The Strongsville Education Association (SEA) filed a 10-day notice with the State Employment Labor Relations Board on February 21 for a potential strike starting March 4, after months of contentious negotiations between the Ohio Education Association affiliate and the Strongsville City Schools Board of Education came grinding to a halt.
School officials and union representatives have been tight-lipped as to what aspects of the board’s proposed contract SEA reportedly considers “ridiculous proposals” that show the union “appalling levels of disrespect,” but rumors of draconian cuts and a lack of transparent negotiations have fueled the ongoing fight between the district and the teachers union.
SEA emphasizes that teachers made concessions worth $2 million in the most recent contract extension, primarily by accepting reduced future salary hikes and agreeing to pay 10 percent of their own health insurance premiums. Currently, district taxpayers still pay for 90 percent of teachers’ health insurance premiums and 100 percent of teachers’ pensions.
According to Strongsville City Schools budget projections, employees received $58,614,397 in salary and benefits last year, accounting for 87.2 percent of the district’s total spending.
In January, the Cleveland Sun News reported that more than 300 teachers crowded into a school board meeting as a show of union “solidarity.” Sun News reporter Cory Shaffer also covered a series of more disruptive protests by SEA and unionized support staff as hope for an agreement waned in early February.
On February 7, hundreds of unionized teachers and support staff interrupted a school board meeting, shouting “settle now” and “fair contract” as the school board representatives entered the building.
Local police were called to regulate entry into the meeting room after union protesters attempted to shout down school board president David Frazee’s motion to call the meeting to order, chanting “settle now” and other slogans. Frazee directed police to close the door to the meeting and remove anyone “who cannot control themselves.”
Protestors also filled the halls of the administration building and surrounding property, wearing buttons with slogans including, “we don’t want to strike, but we will.” After police closed the meeting room door, teachers attempted to shout down the board’s proceedings by yelling through the open windows.
Kindergarten teacher and union spokeswoman Christine Canning told the Plain Dealer on February 15 that “the Board is now forcing us down a very dangerous path that could lead to a work stoppage in the next couple of weeks.”
At a February 15 meeting, SEA members voted to give the union permission to file notification of a strike and work stoppage – a threat which the union followed through on a week later.
Calling for a vote of no confidence in the Strongsville City Schools Board of Education at a February 21 union press conference, SEA President Tracy Linscott said, “”This board has created a caustic environment where teachers feel demeaned, devalued by the board. They have made an already toxic relationship worse by trying to balance the books on the backs of their staff.”