The Reynoldsburg Board of Education has switched the location of its July 15 meeting to accommodate the "large turnout of teachers" that Reynoldsburg Education Association (REA) spokeswoman Gina Daniels said is expected to attend.
The meeting will start at 7 p.m. at the Encore Performing Arts Center at Encore Academy on the Summit Campus, 8579 Summit Road.
"We are expecting a large turnout of teachers and community members who support them," Daniels said. "Everyone is welcome to attend the meeting and teachers will be sharing their opinions at the meeting."
The REA and district negotiating teams began working with a federal mediator after contract talks collapsed June 26, when district negotiators "walked away from the table," Daniels said.
Tricia Moore, district director of shared services and partnerships, said the district negotiating team was "stonewalled" that day, when REA's team refused to discuss proposed contract changes. She said the district thought the mediator "was the best way to ensure the bargaining continues in good faith."
Moore said the REA circulated an email letter among its members shortly before June 26, urging them "prepare for a strike" later in the summer.
The REA also filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the State Employment Relations Board shortly after the district shared details of proposed contract changes online and published a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page to address community questions at reyn.org/FAQ.aspx.
On June 30, more than 100 teachers picketed in front of the district's administration building on East Main Street, carrying signs that said, "Just Practicing," "High Stakes are for Tomatoes, not Students" and "We Say No to Merit Pay."
Daniels said a teachers' strike this summer "is certainly not on anyone's priority list."
"We'd rather not think of a strike as a possibility," she said. "We are very hopeful that we can get a fair contract before school starts."
She said the negotiating teams will meet again with the federal mediator Aug. 5 and 6.
The teachers' current negotiated contract expires July 31.
Daniels said sticking points in the district proposal include basing salary increases on merit pay, which the REA believes puts too much emphasis on high-stakes, standardized testing, and the elimination of group health insurance. The district has proposed that teachers would be paid cash sums to buy their own health insurance through the state's Affordable Care Act.
The district FAQ page states it is fair to base teacher salary increases on student performance, because "the district is unwavering in its belief that all children can learn and achieve at high levels."
"We do not accept excuses to the contrary," stated information on the FAQ page. "The Ohio Teacher Evaluation System was fully implemented in Reynoldsburg this past school year. It takes into account a combination of factors, including student results, student growth and the observations of trained evaluators -- usually school principals ... the board's proposal is based on the belief that compensation increases should be based on performance, rather than rewarding all teachers the same, regardless of talent and effort."