Effects of teachers’ strike being felt

State Representative Heather Bishoff (D-Blacklick) addresses hundreds of supporters who gathered Sept. 20 at Huber Park to support the Reynoldsburg Education Association, which officially went on strike the day before.
State Representative Heather Bishoff (D-Blacklick) addresses hundreds of supporters who gathered Sept. 20 at Huber Park to support the Reynoldsburg Education Association, which officially went on strike the day before.

By Dustin Ensinger
Staff Writer

Failed negotiations that lead to a teachers’ strike caused a dysfunctional scene in high schools in the Reynoldsburg City School District, according to students.

The Reynoldsburg Education Association (REA), which represents more than 350 teachers in the district, formally went on strike at 12:01 a.m. on Sept. 19. Hundreds of substitute teachers filled their roles the next morning, but students say they were ill-equipped to handle the situation.

Jamie Montague, a senior who attends the Livingston Campus, called the environment at her school, “stressful, chaotic and dangerous.”

“There were a lot of students acting out,” Montague said. “Most of the subs had no control at all.”

District Treasurer Tricia Moore acknowledged the first day of the strike was at times rough.

“The students were having a very difficult time with the change,” Moore said. “Emotions were very high.”

Moore credited the district’s teachers for keeping the students out of the labor strife prior the strike. But she said the first day of picketing was a different story as teachers and their supporters gathered outside of the district’s buildings.

“As of Friday, it’s all out in the open and it’s happening right in front of their schools and it’s difficult to expect them to be sitting in class doing their school work when their teachers, role models and peers are right outside the window,” Moore said.

Montague said there was very little structure on the first day of the strike. Games were played in most of her unusually large classes.

“I actually left because I couldn’t get any learning done,” Montague said.

Sophomore Cain Warner, who attends the BELL school at the Summit Road Campus, said his classes were smaller than normal because many students did not show up on the first day of the strike.

“My first class was supposed to be French,” he said. “We did zero French.”

The district has reassigned administrators and will more tightly structure the day at high schools in hopes to avoid any more turmoil inside the buildings, Moore said.

Those changes will include escorts of students into their classrooms at the beginning of the day, breakfasts and lunches delivered to classrooms and scheduled restroom breaks and exercise times.

The district also announced the Reynoldsburg City Police will enforce truancy cases and asked parents to keep their children off of picket lines.

After five months, the negotiations broke down on Sept. 18, just hours before the strike was scheduled to begin after the teachers rejected the school board’s offer of binding arbitration. The union said the offer shirks the board’s responsibility to negotiate a fair contract.

Negotiations got off to a rocky start when the board offered a contract that eliminated the employer paid health care plan and instead offered a stipend for teachers to purchase health insurance on the private market.

The two sides have since largely closed the gap on financial issues, but remain at an impasse over a limit on class sizes.

“Educational decisions should be based on not driven by blind allegiance to any ideology,” said Kim Cooper, co-president of the REA.

Cooper also accused Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning of harboring a conservative political agenda that favors “high-stakes testing.” She said that has led to an exodus of teachers from the district.

“I have yet to find a standardized test that measures a teacher’s heart,” she said.
Moore said the teachers’ last offer had “a couple of aspects that make it unaffordable for the community.”

There are no negotiations scheduled between the two sides.

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