The teachers union and the Board of Education in Reynoldsburg struck a deal Wednesday night that could end a strike that left teachers off the job for nearly three weeks.
The tentative resolution comes after teachers officially voted to strike on September 18 after talks broke down with the Board of Education. Both sides had been at odds over merit pay, class size, performance and teachers’ pay.
In a statement Wednesday night, Reynoldsburg Schools cautioned the strike will not be over until the association ratifies an agreement and the board approves. If the agreement is ratified, the board of education will call an emergency meeting. The schools plan to operate on Thursday with substitute teachers.
In a statement, REA Co-President Kim Cooper called the agreement "a big win for students." "This agreement is a significant step forward on the most important issues facing our district, class sizes."
The strike officially began on Friday, September 19, when more than 300 teachers hit the picket lines on the sidewalks. Inside the classrooms, chaos was quickly reported. Several students told 10TV classes were disorganized inside of the schools and claimed there were not enough substitutes to go around. On the first day, Reynoldsburg Schools Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning called the bedlam in the schools a “crisis.” “Our kids were essentially asked to start their school year all over again and a lot of our kids had a hard time doing it. It was very, very emotional for our kids,” explained Thomas-Manning in September.
The strike remained largely calm, but it wasn’t without its contentious moments, though. Reynoldsburg police say an officer watched two teachers on October 1 stand in front of a substitute’s car, blocking her from leaving and recording her on a cell phone. The woman in the car rolled up the window and started screaming. Both are facing criminal charges. The teacher's union also accused Reynoldsburg police of trying to stifle its right to picket under what it calls "the guise of safety." But police tell 10TV that they've tried to stay out of it whenever possible.
A Reynoldsburg parent had even filed court documents asking that the schools be shut down over safety concerns. However, a judge ruled the schools to remain open during the strike.
Meanwhile, dozens of parents who had children who attend the Reynoldsburg City School District moved forward with a federal class action lawsuit against the district and Huffmaster, the agency supplying substitute teachers during an on-going teacher strike. Several parents also complained Reynoldsburg students were not getting services that, by law, they should, including those in the English Language Learners program.
As the strike rolled into October, Homecoming was bittersweet for the district as the community celebrated in the shadow of the strike. Before a game against Gahanna-Lincoln, teachers, parents and students took part in a spirit rally to show support for the union. A Reynoldsburg senior says it was an unfortunate backdrop to what is supposed to be a milestone in their high school careers. “I like that the teachers are there. I wish they could do what they used to do. I used to be able to sit in the crowd with my teachers and talk to them about school things, and now I don't have that,” said Aric Harding.
Even Reynoldsburg City Council weighed in on the matter, much to the chagrin of striking teachers. On October 6, Councilman Scott Barrett said, “This council, as well as the administration, we're spectators like the rest of the residents.” They said they have no jurisdiction with the school board and several have voiced their opinions to the district and the union. Barrett even went as far as saying he was “embarrassed” by the strike and his daughter –a senior – is “going through hell” amid the strike.