Threat of possible teachers’ strike causes uproar in Westlake

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WESTLAKE, Ohio -- The threat of a possible teachers' strike is causing an uproar in the City of Westlake. Teachers say they may walk out of their classrooms if they cannot reach a labor agreement with the school board.

"I'm up here to say that I stand with teachers because they have stood with me for the past decade,” said one student during a heated school board meeting Monday night.

Residents, parents and students, got a limited opportunity to share their opinions on a dispute between the teachers union and the school board.

"We have said all along that we would like the board to come back to the table to negotiate," said Loretta Tindall, communications chairperson for the Westlake Teachers Association.

Many audience members became upset when board members ended the meeting without allowing more people to speak. Union president Patrick McMorrow then addressed the crowd.

"It formally ends the negotiation process and forces the teachers to choose between the unconditional surrender of our working conditions or going on strike; there is not another option," McMorrow said.

On April 29, board members gave teachers what they call their last best and final offer. In a news release, the Board of Education states "it is unfair to say we have not negotiated in good faith." Board members say their final offer includes salary increases, along with some health care and personal day concessions. The release also states "we have to balance the needs of our schools with the reality of our budget."

"Another concessionary contract means that we might lose teachers; another concessionary contract may mean that we have class size increase because we don't have enough staff," Tindall said.

"I think the problem is they haven't really looked at the counter proposal to see what is available to them, and I mean, if you look at the details, it's an awesome job and what the board's offering, I think is more than fair," said Westlake resident, Allen Porter.

"Other than my parents and maybe my grandma, my teachers raised me, so to go to a great college as I am...I owe that to my teachers," said Westlake High School senior Anna Renkel.

Board of Education members say after three failed levy attempts, they have had to tighten their budgets and say their last and final offer is what the school district can afford.

According to the district’s website, the average Westlake teacher makes about $72,400 annually.

On Friday, Westlake teachers will vote on whether to accept the school district's offer. If teachers reject it, as union leaders predict, that could lead to them voting to go on strike.