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Federal mediator to assist with Garfield Heights schools negotiations as potential teacher strike looms

Teachers and district administrators are expected to continue talks on Oct. 11, with a mediator present, likely extending the timeframe before a possible strike.

GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — As contentious contract negotiations continue, the Garfield Heights Teachers Association has asked for a federal mediator to assist in efforts to work out a deal with the city school district and avoid a potential teachers strike.

The union confirmed to 3News Wednesday it had obtained a mediator before reaching out to the district's Central Office about possible dates for talks. Administrators rejected GHTA's initial sit-down offers but both sides were eventually able to settle on Oct. 11, and negotiations are currently set to resume that day with the mediator present.

"GHTA is grateful to have a date set and wants to be able to resolve negotiations with a Tentative Agreement that will help the growth of the safety, stability and success of the Garfield Heights City School District," union spokesperson Susan Hart said in a statement. "GHTA looks forward to getting back to the bargaining table."

Garfield Heights teachers have been working without a contract since the previous collective bargaining agreement expired on June 30. Last Friday, GHTA members unanimously authorized a 10-day notice to strike if their demands are not met, but it appears today's announcement could extend that window, at least in the short term.

3News reached out to the district for comment earlier this week, and Superintendent Dr. Richard Reynolds responded by saying:

"The top priority of the Garfield Heights City Schools is to uphold our mission to prepare students to pursue their dreams and give back as engaged citizens and future leaders. That is why the Board of Education and district administration were disappointed in the surprising maneuver late this past Friday afternoon, when GHTA voted to authorize a 10-day notice to strike. Such a tactic does nothing to fulfill our community-oriented mission statement and disrupts the overall learning process. Since negotiations began in April 2022 - despite a summer break when GHTA refused to negotiate - the negotiating teams have met on no fewer than 10 separate occasions and have reached tentative agreements on more than 12 articles impacting the current contract. Some of these issues include language around teacher evaluations, employee discipline, and student discipline. Additionally, the Board’s negotiating team has compromised on several important issues, such as increasing the financial package, recognizing staff committed to long-term employment with the district, and adjusting the pay associated with period substitutions, indicating a willingness to continue discussions. These points, in addition to the fact that the Board’s negotiating team recently reached a contract agreement with our classified union (OAPSE), finds GHTA’s decision to authorize a 10-day notice as a mere distraction, one that hurts students and does nothing to collaboratively seek compromise. The Garfield Heights City Schools is dedicated to the negotiating process and re-asserts its willingness to reach a fair contract with all parties, while operating within the financial realities of the district."

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