Teachers at Parma charter school prepare to strike over growing class sizes, low staffing

PARMA, Ohio-- Teachers at Summit Academy in Parma will be walking the picket lines in front of the school Tuesday morning after negotiations with the charter school’s management broke down over the weekend.

About 25 teachers are employed at the school of about 200 students.

Intervention specialist Mike Meyers said nearly all of the students have been diagnosed with ADHD, autism or have other special needs.

“It’s such a special group of students,” Meyers said.

He said the teachers unionized in 2017 with the Ohio Federation of Teachers after six staff members were inexplicably let go and not replaced, dropping staffing levels to a problematic level.

“You have an increase in class sizes with a lot of positions that have not been filled so teachers are wearing three or four different hats,” Meyers said. “We’re doing lunch duties. The safety of the school, a couple every day help pick up the garbage or sweep their own classroom floors.”

Summit Academy’s website lists classroom sizes as 15 to 18 students, but Meyers said some have much more than that. It’s such a concern that Meyers said teachers have been willing to forego wage increases for increased staffing levels. They’re also asking for the building to be repaired or maintained better, said Meyers.

According to the website, Summit Academy management can’t discuss details during the negotiation process, but said they are “dedicated to changing lives and restoring hope for the students we serve and their families.”

Classes have been canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday this week, but according to the website, “the school is making plans to restore operation quickly should teachers abandon their classrooms.”

Meyers said they aren’t “abandoning” their classrooms, rather standing up for their students and themselves.

“You have teachers that care a lot about their students that don’t want to strike,” Meyers said. “And every parent that came in for parent-teacher conference gave us their support.”

Meyers said this is only the third charter school across the country to ever have a teachers strike.

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