The Akron Education Association on Thursday filed a notice with the state indicating it intends to strike if agreement cannot be reached on a contract with the Akron Public Schools Board of Education within the next 10 days.
Teachers’ unions could go on strike Monday, January 9 if negotiations don’t pan out, meaning nearly 3,000 teachers and other staff leave, leaving questions about how the district will continue to educate its 20,000 students.
The union has been operating without a contract since mid-2022. Key points, according to union leadership and negotiating records, include teacher safety, student discipline and pay. Unions and district negotiating teams met with federal mediators throughout December but were unable to reach an agreement. The strike also follows several serious safety-related incidents recently, with two students bringing loaded weapons into the school building, along with a student who was stabbed in November. Earlier this month, the education board approved $3.5 million for enhanced external safety measures such as new metal detectors, along with several mental health programs.
Akron Education Association President Pat Shipe expressed his frustration in a press release Thursday.
“The outpouring of concern by the people of Akron about school safety and security is being ignored by Akron Public Schools,” said Shipe. “Weeks of unparalleled fighting are now occurring every day inside the Akron school building, but Overseers and Board continue to want to simplify the definition of assault and force students, teachers, parents and families to endure more violence, chaos and disruption to education. . the majority of Akron’s students.”
The union also made several accusations about the caretaker, district administration and Inspector Christine Fowler-Mack in the letter:
- That Akron Public School used American Rescue Plan Act money to pay for “travel and luxury housing to attend seminars at resorts in Florida and Colorado,” and treated administrators to holiday dinners and alcohol at local breweries.
- Inspector Fowler-Mack “refused to move inside” the school district, but instead maintained a suite at a hotel within walking distance of his office.
- That the council has “refused to answer” who paid the bill for the residential accommodation, among other questions.
In response to the allegations, Akron Public Schools director of marketing and communications Mark Williamson issued a statement saying “Most of the claims contained in this document, if not all, are blatantly false.”
In earlier statements about the strike notice itself, Williamson said
“Akron Public Schools respects and values its teachers and the work they do for children every day. We know that if we continue to negotiate we can reach an agreement that is in the best interests of Akron educators, students, parents and our community. APS is ready to stay at the table every day to resolve this situation and keep children learning. We hope that the Akron Education Association shares this commitment with us.”
In a letter to teachers’ union members sent Wednesday, the negotiating team accused the board of having “little or no desire to bargain in good faith” or to answer union public records requests.
The education board met tonight to discuss negotiations with the unions, and another meeting is scheduled for Thursday next week as well. Education Council leaders have previously stated they hoped to reach an agreement with the union, citing a shared goal of providing all Akron students with a good education.
According to a copy of a fact-finding report seeking to find a solution to disagreements between unions and the administration in November, the district government has asked for less than 2% increase annually for the next three years, while unions have asked for 5% annually.
Fact-finders say even with modest pay increases, expenses exceed revenue each year, meaning the county will need to seek a levy in the coming years. Of the 13 levies imposed on ballots since 1985, only six were approved by voters and only two were passed on the first attempt.
Unions in a press release said the district had “never been in a better financial position than they are currently” with the provision of federal pandemic relief, while 20% of teaching positions currently remain unfilled or “filled with unqualified staff.” “.