An online petition asking the Reynoldsburg school district to offer "a fair and equitable contract to the Reynoldsburg Education Association, showing value and respect," has gathered more than 500 signatures.

An online petition asking the Reynoldsburg school district to offer "a fair and equitable contract to the Reynoldsburg Education Association, showing value and respect," has gathered more than 500 signatures.

The petition was posted by a group of Reynoldsburg parents calling themselves "Raider Strong We Care" at

One of its founders, Margaret Mary Luzny, said as talks between teachers and the district remain stalled, despite the efforts of a federal mediator, parents became more and more concerned.

"We don't want to see a teachers' strike," she said. "We want a compromise to be reached, but we also have issues with class sizes and the elimination of programs."

"Raider Strong We Care" has a Facebook page that now lists 254 members.

"We wholeheartedly object to salaries based on a merit pay system," the petition states. "Data indicates it has proven a failure in many other districts and businesses because it neglects to recognize the unique nature of education, the need for collaboration, the intrinsic motivation of teachers and the wide range of demographics educators see in their classrooms each year."

The petition also asks that the new contract retain group health insurance for teachers, instead of the original district proposal, which was to drop group insurance and give teachers a flat fee to enroll online under the federal Affordable Care Act.

Reynoldsburg teachers voted Aug. 8 to authorize union representatives to file a 10-day strike notice. That notice

has not been filed yet, but could be filed at any time as an intent to strike, said Kathy Evans, Reynoldsburg Education Association (REA) spokeswoman.

The current contract between the district and its teachers expired July 31.

She said sticking points between the union and district leaders include compensation based on teacher evaluations under a new state system, merit pay based on student performance on state tests and no firm caps on class sizes.

Luzny said about 20 parents showed up Monday evening to talk to new Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning during her open office hours.

"We talked to her about our concerns over class sizes," Luzny said. "She told us that is not a concern this year, but we know there are many classes over 25 students to a teacher.

"My concern is that because we are an open-enrollment district, we were sold a bill of goods that classes would not go over 25, but they have gone over that, in many cases."

She said the district also has been replacing some certified teachers in areas such as physical education, with paraprofessionals.

"The certified teacher who used to share her time between two school buildings is now teaching in four buildings," Luzny said.

District concessions

Reynoldsburg Board of Education member Joseph Begeny said the district did offer some concessions during the latest negotiating session, including an offer to retain the salary schedule in place for the 2013-14 school year, with cost-of-living-adjustment raises of 2 percent in year one of the proposed contract and 1.7 percent in year two.

Negotiations would be reopened for the third year, for compensation only.

He said the district also proposed additional compensation based on teachers' ratings under the Ohio Teachers Evaluation System (OTES) and compromised on health insurance by maintaining a group policy, but converting employees' share of the cost to 10 percent, rather than a flat amount.

Begeny said he did not know when negotiations would resume; it depends on the schedule of the federal mediator.

He said community involvement in the contract issue "is a wonderful thing."

"The more parents and community members voice their opinions, the more the district should respond to the wants and the needs of the people," he said. "I also feel this has opened the door for people from one school to interact with parents and community members from other schools and has helped the community see what is going on in all the schools."

As an elected member of the board, Begeny said it is his "duty and responsibility to listen to those community members about their concerns with the district and by extension, be their voice on the board.

"I know everyone is worried, and being the only board member with kids in the district right now, I may feel more pressure to see a resolution," he said. "I know I don't want a strike; the teachers have said they don't want a strike and the administration does not want a strike.

"I will do all that I can to make sure that doesn't happen."