A federal mediator met with both sides in the ongoing Strongsville teachers strike Wednesday morning. But after 14 hours of negotiating, no deal was made.
Negotiations began at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday and concluded at 11:30 p.m. Both sides plan to meet again Thursday at 3 p.m. to continue the discussion.
The meeting was called Tuesday after the Strongsville Education Association declared its official intent to end the ongoing teachers' strike by entering into the process of binding interest arbitration.
The unions' announcement came just as the strike entered its fifth week with no movement toward a settlement being made thus far by the Strongsville Board of Education.
"If the Board agrees to the SEA proposal to enter binding interest arbitration, the strike will end immediately and our kids will return to school this week to find their highly qualified teachers of record back in their classrooms," SEA President Tracy Linscott said.
If the offer of arbitration is accepted, both the SEA and the Board agree to submit all unresolved issues to a mutually-agreed upon arbitrator who will decide between both contracts issue by issue.
Binding interest arbitration is the same process mayors use to solve labor disputes with safety forces because, unlike teachers and other public employees, firefighters and police officers are prohibited from striking by law.
There is every reason to expect that the Board will consider the SEA's offer. The Board itself proposed binding interest arbitration in its ground rules in 2009 and 2010 when both groups anticipated drawn-out, difficult negotiations.
Ground rules of the agreement state that an arbitrator must be mutually selected within 30 days and that arbitration must begin after the fiscal year ends on June 30 but no later than August 30. This allows the arbitrator to have a clearer idea of the district's finances when settling the contract.
"If the Board's claim that they don't have the money to pay quality teachers fair wages is true, this process will reveal that. However, if the position of the SEA is correct and the Board is intentionally suppressing revenues in order to justify their current negotiating tactics, that truth will be revealed as well. Either way, with teachers back in the classrooms and the district not committed to anything it can't afford, the kids are the big winners," Linscott said.
All decisions by the arbitrator will be final and binding and go into effect 60 days after the ruling unless the parties mutually agree to an alternate resolution prior to the final day.
"The Board has a responsibility to resolve this dispute in a fair way and more importantly, to provide the children of this community with an excellent education. This process allows them to do both. The Board has been absent from the table, absent from their phones, and absent from fairness and reason. They have abdicated responsibility for this community's well-being to lawyers and outsiders.
It's time for the Board to reclaim their responsibility for this district's future and work to end this strike," Linscott said.
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