Reynoldsburg City Council has little comment on schools’ teacher contract situation

By Dustin Ensinger
Staff Writer

On the same day that teachers in the Reynoldsburg City School District informed administrators of their intention to strike in 10 days, dozens of their supporters flocked to Reynoldsburg City Council chambers to ask for support on Sept. 8.

They received mostly silence.

Councilwoman Leslie Kelly, a former teacher with Columbus City Schools, who also served as principal of Reynoldsburg’s eSTEM Academy, was the only member to speak out. She she was “blessed to work with many of the amazing educators in this district.”

She left the district in 2011 for a position in the Westerville City School District.
However, she did not take a position on the labor strife.

“I, too, hope that all sides will return to the negotiating table,” she said.

Following the meeting, Councilman Cornelius McGrady, who described himself as a 30-year union advocate, declined to take a position on the negotiations. He said he needed more information about the offers received by the union and the counter-offers proposed. But he did say he is worried about the impact a strike could have.

“The students and the teachers won’t recover from any strike,” McGrady said.

He also echoed the sentiments of city resident Margaret Mary Luzny, who told council that the school district and the city are inextricably linked.

“I realize that you share a driveway, but these two entities are separate,” she said. “However, you depend on each other for your success. A community is only as strong as its schools and the schools need a community to support them.”

McGrady agreed with that sentiment, calling the school district “the lifeblood of the city.”

“Somewhere along the line someone needs to say we’re going to do what’s good for the students in the city,” McGrady said.

The Reynoldsburg Education Association said in a statement the day prior that it had rejected the district’s latest contract proposal with near unanimity – 97 percent of the vote among the membership.
Union Spokeswoman Kathy Evans said class size and turnover among teachers are the major sticking point in the negotiations.

“As front line educators, we have listened to our students, our parents, and our community. We have heard the calls for class size caps,” she said in a press release. “We have heard the calls for addressing our teacher turnover issue. We have brought these issues to the bargaining table time and time again, and each time Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning and the board have refused to address these crucial concerns, instead continuing a divisive ideological crusade that now leaves us with no choice but to exercise our right to strike.”

In a statement posted on the district’s website Thomas-Manning said she hoped to get back to the negotiating table, but did not address either issue.

“We do not want our teachers to strike,” she said. “Our team has been and continues to be willing to meet and negotiate until an agreement is reached.”

The district has hired a temporary staffing firm to place teachers in the schools if the strike does occur.

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