June 25, 2016

Mostly clear

Wadsworth teachers issue strike notice

WADSWORTH — Wadsworth teachers plan to strike Nov. 24 if a contract deal with the school board is not reached by then.

The Wadsworth Education Association, which represents 285 teachers, issued a 10-day strike notice to the school board Thursday.
Superintendent Dale Fortner said if the teachers strike, the board will keep the schools open and “take the actions necessary to provide for the education and safety of its students.”

The teachers’ three-year contract ended in July and they have been working without a contract since. The teachers union and the school board had their sixth mediation session this week.

“We are disappointed that once again there was little progress in negotiations Thursday,” WEA spokesman Mark Schoonover said in a statement. “The board has left us little choice but to file a 10-day notice of intent to strike.”

Fortner said Friday the issues of contention “appear to be financial” because the union hasn’t proposed any changes to insurance, leaves of absence, contract language or any other benefit area.

He said the district has had to deal with a decreasing state budget and diminishing tax revenues simultaneously with increasing expenditures. He said those constraints have played into negotiations.

“While the board will continue to negotiate in good faith, it has seen no movement from the union in the past several negotiation sessions and is not optimistic that the strike will be averted before the strike deadline,” a school district statement said.

Schoonover said Friday the board’s public comments regarding the negotiations are about financial issues but many of the concerns the union has had are nonfinancial.

“We as a union are concerned with the nonfinancial issues as well, and those are the majority of the problems that are keeping us from reaching a fair and equitable agreement,” he said.

No mediation sessions are scheduled between the union and the board before the planned strike date, but both Fortner and Schoonover expressed willingness to organize one.

The Wadsworth Educational Support Personnel Association and school board reached a tentative contract agreement Oct. 29. The board is scheduled to vote on it Monday.

Contact Maria Kacik at (330) 721-4049 or mkacik@ohio.net.