With a possible teachers strike pending, Reynoldsburg school board members voted 4-0 Tuesday night, Aug. 19, to hire a firm that provides substitutes to cross picket lines.
The contract with Huffmaster, a Michigan firm, will cost $81,000 and would go into effect if teachers file a 10-day strike notice.
Board member Joseph Begeny, a teacher with Columbus City Schools, abstained.
Reynoldsburg teachers gave union representatives authorization to file a 10-day notice “at their discretion” Aug. 8 in an “overwhelming” vote, said Kathy Evans, Reynoldsburg Education Association spokeswoman.
She said teachers were frustrated after a negotiating session lasting nearly 20 hours and ending at 2 a.m. Aug. 6 resulted in a district contract proposal that set no limits on class sizes, did not address planning time and contained a compensation package that was still partially merit-based.
More than 600 people — mostly Reynoldsburg teachers and union members from other districts, along with parents belonging to a support group called Raider Strong We Care — crowded into the performing-arts center at the Summit Road high school campus for the board meeting.
Board members approved four more teacher resignations at the meeting, bringing the total number of teacher resignations to 54 since January.
Evans said combining resignations, retirements and one-year leave of absences, 20 percent of the teaching staff from last year is not returning to Reynoldsburg classrooms.
She said the board is “out of touch with the values of our community.”
“Reynoldsburg students deserve better, including reasonable class sizes and a means of addressing the unprecedented teacher turnover in our district,” she said.
Board president Andrew Swope, who is on the district bargaining team, said at the meeting that he has received a lot of emails claiming the board must have a political agenda.
“I’ve given 15 years of my life (to the school board), and I find it insulting to get those emails,” he said. “These negotiations have dragged out because of schedule conflicts, but we are all working together in a respectful way.
“I believe one board member, however, has a conflict of interest, because he belongs to a union,” Swope said.
Begeny looked over at him, as he is the only school board member belonging to a union.
“During the election, there was no mention of conflict of interest,” Begeny said. “The community obviously voted me into this position. Only now do you decide to bring up this conflict of interest?”
Both sides have been working with a federal mediator during negotiation sessions as they attempt to come to an agreement on a teachers contract.
The existing negotiated contract expired July 31.
Evans said teachers and district leaders are waiting on that mediator to learn the schedule of the next negotiation sessions.