INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — The Strongsville teachers union and Strongsville School Board were called to the table Wednesday by a federal mediator.
They met at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service regional office on Rockside Road in Independence.
The marathon session, which began at 9:30 a.m., broke only once for lunch and continued until approximately 11:45 p.m.
No deal was reached, and the negotiations were expected to continue on Thursday.
The teachers are in their fifth week of the strike.
Tuesday, the Strongsville Education Association representing teachers asked the board to agree to binding arbitration, which would’ve put teachers back in the classrooms immediately.
Binding arbitration allows for a mutually agreed upon third-party to go through the contract line by line and decide the issues.
But the board refused the offer.
“We believe we have a responsibility to our community and voters to stay the course,” said David Frazee, the board president. “In binding arbitration, we would be delegating to an out-of-town third-party the authority to spend Strongsville taxpayer dollars and concede management rights, which our board thinks is not appropriate and is not agreeable to us.”
Frazee said the board has a “last best offer on the table.”
“We will continue to keep the community informed as the mediation process continues, but binding arbitration is not an option,” he said in the statement.
In response to the board’s refusal, SEA President Tracy Linscott said, “I believe the board has a hidden agenda. I believe that the board thinks, 'let's do this and we can break the backs of our union.'”
Linscott says there are serious issues that need to be addressed but the lack of communication is costing the district a lot.
She says the strike cost estimates could be well over $2.5 million.
And teachers are also sacrificing much, “You know we’re not getting a paycheck, no insurance benefits, it's very difficult for all of us to be on strike. We feel like that is what the board wants. They want us to feel the hardship and they really don’t care.”
But most importantly, Linscott says it’s the students who are truly suffering and not getting a proper education.
The Strongsville student body issued the following statement:
“The student body of the City of Strongsville is pleased to hear of the recent proposal of a binding arbitration by the Strongsville Education Association. By the board (accepting) the proposal the strike will end immediately bringing our teachers back into the classroom. The binding arbitration is the best route to end this strike now and it needs to be accepted for the best interest of the students, the district and the community as a whole. This glimmer of hope needs to be taken hold of and it must be enacted to keep Strongsville at a district of excellence level.”
The Strongsville Education Association represents 385 teachers, guidance counselors and special education interventionists.