The Reynoldsburg school district has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the Reynoldsburg Education Association, charging that the teachers’ union “walked away” from a conceptual agreement reached three weeks ago.
Tricia Moore, director of shared services and partnerships, said the complaint was filed with the State Employment Relations Board against the REA and the Ohio Education Association because the REA negotiating team “walked away” from a conceptual agreement made after a long bargaining session ended at 2 a.m. Aug. 6.
“At the end of the session, both sides shook hands and said they had an agreement that each would advocate to their respective members and all that was left to was get it on paper,” she said. “At that point, the Friday after that session, the union team came back in and said, ‘we don’t agree’ and changed their position. Legally, they call it bad-faith bargaining.”
She said concessions on both sides had resulted in the agreement Aug. 6 to keep the teachers’ current salary schedule, with a minor change for 14 teachers that would have cost about $7,000 to taxpayers.
“When they came in Friday of that week, that is the time they shared the draft agreement posted with REA notes, making changes in the salary schedule to 70 people,” Moore said Monday, Aug. 25.
She said that change “would result in a comprehensive rewrite of the schedule that could result in a long-term affect to many people and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
She said when the district balked at the changes, the union team walked away and later that night, the teachers voted to authorize their team to issue a 10-day strike notice at their discretion.
REA spokeswoman Kathy Evans said the district’s complaint is “the latest disappointing action taken by the board.”
“It’s a shame that rather than focus their energies on reaching a fair agreement that addresses reasonable class sizes and unprecedented teacher turnover, the board chose instead to file a charge against us,” Evans said. “I can only imagine what our district would look like if the board spent its time working with the teachers in the best interest of high quality rather than finding new ways to attack us and negotiate through the press.
“The REA is prepared to go to the table on Sept. 5 and make every effort to reach an agreement that is fair to our teachers, students and community,” she said.
She said teachers started the school year Aug. 13 under terms of a contract that expired July 31.
The two sides are scheduled to meet again with a federal mediator Sept. 5.
Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning said the schools would remain open.
“We continue to believe the compromise the REA walked away from is fair and provides major benefits for our teachers,” Superintendent Tina Thomas-Manning said.
“But if a strike is called, Reynoldsburg schools will remain open,” she said. “Non-REA staff would report as normal -- principals and administrators, secretaries, teaching aides, library aides, school psychologists, bus drivers, cooks, custodians and central office staff.”
Moore said because a possible teachers’ strike is pending, the board had no choice but to approve a contract Aug. 19 with Huffmaster to bring in substitute teachers.
“The board’s negotiating team very much wants to get this resolved and to entertain the possibility of a strike is not our choice,” she said. “We are forced by the vote that occurred to make sure things are lined up so our students will have a safe and productive place to learn.”
She said the district knows it can’t “replace Reynoldsburg teachers overnight.”
“What we can do is find qualified substitutes who will be screened and background checked and carefully selected to maintain educational progress for students, if we are forced to do that,” she said.