PARMA, OHIO – It’s been more than one week since teachers hit the picket line outside Summit Academy Parma, a school that advertises a specialty in educating students with autism and AD/HD.
Since then, classes have not resumed, frustrating families of about 200 students trying to grapple with their new normal.
“I’m losing my mind,” explained Bethany Cass a 12th-grade student diagnosed with autism. “My depression is getting worse. I can’t see my counselor.”
Cass says she is just three months shy of graduation and now questions if she will be able to make up homework in time to walk across the stage.
Her mother Jennifer Cass says no one is winning negotiations.
“The most upsetting thing to me is that I feel no one is going to win and I feel that my daughter is not receiving the services that she’s supposed to,” said Cass.
Twenty-five teachers went on strike last week over an unfair labor practice charge, in addition to fighting for smaller class sizes and better safety conditions. Monday the Ohio Federation of Teachers rejected the latest offer from Summit Academy Management (SAM) according to the management company.
Tuesday the Ohio Federation of Teachers said in a statement:
“SAM continued their pattern of bad-faith bargaining by moving backward and offering us a contract that was significantly worse than their pre-strike offer. It is clear that their intent is not to negotiate a contract, but rather to obstruct, delay, and try to break our union.”
Parent Jennalee Kaufmann says she hopes the strike is fruitful in decreasing classroom sizes and proving better educational opportunities for her child Reiker diagnosed with autism.
“I fully support their strike, even though it’s put a little bit of stress on our family,” said parent Jennalee Kaufmann. “It’s put a lot of stress on their [teacher’s] family. They are not being paid.”
Kaufmann says children on the autism spectrum need consistency, routine, and people who have developed a relationship with students. Reiker now in 8th grade has attended the school since 2nd grade.
“I’ve been like bored out of my mind, just being at home,” said Reiker Kaufmann.
According to SAM, classes at the Parma school are canceled for the rest of the week. Additional negotiations between SAM and union representatives resumed Thursday. A school spokesperson declined further comment.