Strongsville Teachers Vote to Strike

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STRONGSVILLE, Ohio -- After a day of outbursts and protest, hundreds of Strongsville teachers announced just before 8:30 p.m. Sunday that they voted to strike.

The strike officially begins at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

The group met at the Holiday Inn at 5 p.m. Sunday for the vote after rejecting the Board of Education's last best offer.

Earlier in the day, a chanting crowd of teachers stormed Strongsville City Hall as substitutes filled out paperwork, preparing to take their place when the strike begins at midnight.

Neither side would talk about specific sticking points, but both said they were at odds over working conditions and salaries.

Strongsville Board of Education President David Frazee released the following statement after the vote:

"I am extremely  disappointed that our teachers have voted to implement a strike beginning on March 4, 2013. However, the Board of Education (BOE) is grateful that we have a highly capable and professional administrative team as well as qualified substitute teachers in place, who want only the best for our students. I want to personally thank the Strongsville Police Department for their efforts so that our students and non-striking staff are able to open schools on Monday as we begin this teachers’ strike. We believe we have done everything we could to avoid a teachers’ strike. It was the Strongsville Education Association’s (SEA) decision to go on strike.

We have and will continue to negotiate in good faith during the strike.  We have proposed what we feel is a very fair and reasonable contract proposal ... I am confident that the Strongsville community will find the BOE agreement to be extremely fair to our teachers and affordable to our district. We are putting our strike preparation plan into effect."

The SEA also submitted a statement:

"The Strongsville Education Association has voted overwhelmingly to commence work stoppage at 12:01 a.m. on March 4. The SEA came to the table prepared to reach a mutual agreement with the Board on Saturday, March 2; however, it became clear that the Board was not prepared to bargain in good faith.

The announcement of a strike concludes nine months of bargaining. The last bargaining session took place yesterday. All five board members arrived in a security van provided by Huffmaster to attend their first bargaining session since negotiations began in June. Although the SEA submitted their proposal to the Board’s team of lawyers over a week in advance, negotiations were delayed for two and a half hours while the Board was briefed on the contents.

Negotiations lasted eight hours with a federal mediator. Despite concessions offered by the SEA in a later proposal, the Strongsville Board of Education responded within minutes with their last best and final offer, abruptly ending all negotiations.

“We have always been willing to negotiate and to make concessions to reach the fair and equitable contract that our members deserve; however, the Board has shown a callous disregard for its teachers, its students, and its community by refusing to negotiate any longer and attempting to impose a contract that will ultimately hurt our kids,” Christine Canning, SEA spokesperson, said.

After months of fruitless negotiations, the SEA authorized their bargaining team to issue a ten-day strike notice. The notice was issued February 21.

“While we had hoped it would not be necessary to leave our classrooms, the reckless and irrational actions of the Board have left us with no choice to strike for our very survival,” Canning said. “It is clear that the Board doesn’t care about the long-term impact their demands would have on the quality of education in this community. Instead, they are pursuing a political agenda that wastes taxpayer dollars on lawyers and security guards instead of investing our children and the teachers who serve them every day.”

The SEA represents 383 teachers, guidance counselors, and psychologists who have been working without a contract since June. This number reflects a reduction of approximately 100 teachers in the last five years."

Superintendent John Krupinski also released the following statement:

"We are disappointed that our teachers have voted to implement a strike beginning on March 4, 2013. However, the Board of Education (BOE) and I are pleased that we have a highly capable and professional administrative team as well as qualified substitute teachers in place, who want only the best for our students. We thank the Strongsville Police Department for their efforts so that our students and non-striking staff are able to open schools on Monday as we begin this teachers’ strike. We believe we have done everything we could to avoid a teachers’ strike.It is the Strongsville Education Association’s (SEA) decision to go on strike. We will continue to negotiate in good faith during the strike."

The board has posted its proposal and the teachers union proposal on the district’s website.

On Friday, the school board filed an unfair labor practice charge against the Strongsville Education Association, saying teachers confronted the schools’ negotiation team at the negotiation site in Independence on Monday night.

The SEA members are also accused of pounding on vehicles and using themselves as a barricade to prevent the negotiation team from leaving.

Last week, Strongsville teachers approved a “no-confidence” vote against the school board, based on the way they feel their latest contract negotiations have been handled.

Students are still expected to attend class on Monday.

Stick with Fox 8 for more details on this developing story.

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