Negotiating teams representing the Reynoldsburg Education Association and the Reynoldsburg Board of Education will return to the bargaining table Sept. 5 to work with a federal mediator.
REA spokeswoman Kathy Evans said Aug. 22 both sides will meet at 4 p.m. Sept. 5 at the Columbus office of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
This will be the first negotiation session since teachers voted Aug. 8 to authorize union representatives to file a 10-day strike notice, at their discretion. A notice to strike has not yet been filed.
The last negotiation session Aug. 5 lasted 20 hours and ended with what the district called “a conceptual agreement,” while teachers called it a stalemate.
Evans said teachers are “standing firm on their proposal for reasonable class size limits and a means of addressing unprecedented teacher turnover in the district.”
She said a number of community members, parents and students expressed a desire for a contract “that is fair to the teachers and students” at the school board meeting Aug. 19.
About 600 people, most teachers from Reynoldsburg and surrounding districts, along with parents and students, held a rally at Summit Elementary an hour before that meeting, then marched together to the high school chanting, “Reynoldsburg teachers, ready to fight, early in the morning, late at night.”
“We are hopeful that a resolution will be found, but the board’s current proposals are out of touch with the values of our community,” Evans said. “We are continuing our fight for the schools that Reynoldsburg students deserve.
“Class sizes have been out of control and we are losing teachers left and right, which is unheard of here in Reynoldsburg,” she said. “We will continue working towards a fair contract that respects our students, our teachers and our community.”
At its Aug. 19 meeting, the board voted 4-0 to approve an $81,000 contract with Huffmaster, a firm that will bring in substitute teachers to fill district classrooms if Reynoldsburg teachers do strike.
Board member Joseph Begeny, who is a teacher with Columbus City Schools, said he abstained from voting for the Huffmaster contract.
He said by voting to approve the contract, “I would be betraying my instincts as an educator of students.”
“I am deeply worried about the qualifications of those people entering our classrooms and teaching our students,” Begeny said. “Security for our students is one thing, education is something different … Students are my No. 1 priority.”
Begeny said he could not vote against the contract, either, because, “I could possibly be placing a major hardship on the families of Reynoldsburg.”
“A number of students in our community need our breakfast service and our lunches and (families) need the security of knowing their child is cared for while they are work,” he said.