By Elizabeth Goussetis
Another round of negotiations was set for Sept. 18, the day before teachers in Reynoldsburg City Schools planned to strike.
Both sides filed complaints with the State Employment Relations Board formally accused each other of unfair bargaining behavior.
The first complaint, filed by the union over the district’s public release of their negotiating terms in the form of a “vision statement” on the district website, has received a hearing with the state board. The state found probable cause for part of the complaint, which alleged the district posted details about their bargaining proposal for insurance and salaries on the district website. A hearing will be set by the board within 10 days of the Sept. 11 statement.
“I think what they’ve already published is already published,” said Reynoldsburg Education Association spokeswoman Kathy Evans of what the impact might be of possible sanctions. However, “it could make a difference in future negotiations,” she said, adding the school board will be negotiating contracts for the district’s service employees in the next few years.
The state board has not ruled on complaints filed by the district, which include a complaint against the teachers’ union accusing them of bad-faith bargaining. That complaint alleges the union “walked away” from an agreement on terms reached in a two-day bargaining session in early August. At the time, the district said the negotiations resulted in a “conceptual agreement,” but union members said they wanted something in writing.
The administration also filed unfair labor practice complaints against two former Reynoldsburg teachers who spoke at the school board meeting in July and now teach in other school districts. Those complaints alleged that speaking at the meeting amounted to bargaining in public, according to Evans.
“We are still focused on class sizes and a means to keep our excellent teachers. Ninety-seven percent turned down the offer from the board. That speaks loud and clear, and they are not listening to us and respecting what we are saying,” said Evans, referring to the vote at a REA meeting earlier this month.
Teachers are planning a rally in Huber Park on Sept. 20.
“That rally will either be a celebration of a contract in place and a strike averted,” Evans said, “Or just a traditional solidarity rally to garner support and share ideas, but will go on either way.”
Last week, preparations for the picket-line realities of a strike were underway in the district. The district hired retired principals from central Ohio to provide support to each building principal in the district, according to a Sept. 15 statement from Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning.
Administrators and principals were making lesson plans for the substitutes to use in the first few days of a possible strike, said district spokewoman Tricia Moore. And the district agreed to pay $80,000 to a staffing firm, Huffmaster, which specializes in hiring substitutes who will cross the picket lines during a strike. The firm will also provide security at the schools.
Meanwhile, teachers were preparing for the financial impact of a strike. A strike fund is available to help teachers experiencing emergency needs, but teachers won’t earn their salaries and won’t have access to their employer provided health insurance during the strike.
According to Moore, “It’s against the law to provide pay and benefits to striking workers in Ohio.”
A strike would affect about 350 licensed teachers, school counselors and other staff. It would not include bus drivers, cooks, custodians, central office staff, principals, secretaries, teaching aides, library aides, school psychologists, preschool teachers, and certain special ed teachers and other teachers employed through partner agencies.