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Garfield Heights teachers threaten strike

A standoff in contract negotiations could lead to no teachers in the classroom.

GARFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — Teachers in Garfield Heights have been working without a contract since June 30.

"We wouldn't be continuing to want to negotiate if it wasn't that important and it's time that the staff is heard and understood," says Garfield Heights Teachers' Union (GHTA) member Susan Hart.

On Friday, more than 200 educators met with union leadership hoping for an update or answers following five months of negotiations with the district.

"They're not hearing us," Hart adds. "They're not seeing what the big picture is and that's heartbreaking for me, a teacher who's been teaching for 27 years."

After Friday's unanimous vote, the teacher's association authorized a 10-day notice to strike if the district doesn't move forward and fast.

"We don't want to strike either, but we want that understanding of how important this safety, stability and success that we want for our students is," explains Hart.

While another vote would be needed in order to move contract negotiations forward, the GHTA has obtained a federal mediator and says the central office administration has yet to respond about attending any scheduled meetings.

3News reached out to the district for comment - the office of Superintendent Dr. Richard Reynolds responded with a statement:

"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."

While district teachers insist a strike is fighting to keep kids first, Hart says the teachers are concerned their voices simply aren't being heard.

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