Garfield Heights, OH. - Garfield Heights is a suburb of Cleveland in Cuyahoga County. According to city data, the population is approximately 27,272. The city of Garfield operates a public school system. It comprises three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Garfield's public school leadership consists of a Superintendent and a five-member elected board.
Recently at a local school board meeting, approximately 100 teachers stood in solidarity as they attended the 9/19/2022 school board meeting. The teachers wore black shirts and blouses as they sat quietly, holding yellow signs that now read stability, safety, and success.
School Board President Nichelle Daniels called the meeting to order at 6 pm. Following the regular procedures, Daniels began her report as she opened with a letter of "success," thanking teachers and staff for their hard work. Daniels briefly acknowledged the State's Report Card Grading status of Garfield City School District. "We must do better. We will collectively develop strategic plans to elevate our students. Regardless of what the Ohio Department of Education says, our students need us to pull through this time," said Daniels.
Garfield Heights City school is scrapping the bottom of the barrel. According to the Ohio Department of Education, Garfield City schools ranked 598 out of 607 school districts.
"We cannot and will not stay in the same place. I want us to remain focused: we must nurture our young people, serve out young people and help them grow," stated Dr. Richard D. Reynolds, the new Superintendent of Garfield Heights Public School System. Dr. Reynolds clarified that he and his administrative team would study the data and implement strategic methods to overcome the school district's obstacles. Dr. Reynolds's primary responsibility is overseeing the overall success and operation of the Garfield Heights City Schools.
Be that as it may, Dr. Reynolds inherited a failing school district according to the recent Report Card generated by the Ohio Department of Education. He also adopted a teaching staff without a contract. The Garfield Heights Teacher's Association (GHTA) has been without a contract since June 30, 2022. To make matters worse, GHTA is at odds with the School Board. The GHTA requests a safe teaching environment, stability, fair wages, and benefits. Susan Hart, the media spokesperson for GHTA, told Brown on Cleveland, "we will continue negotiations to reach a fair contract. We have lost about forty-five good teachers thus far. The rest of us are here. We have been working without a contract. We do our jobs, and we keep doing our jobs because this is what we do," stated Hart.
During her report, Millette King, the Vice President of Garfield Heights City School who also serves as the Community Engagement Liaison, told the audience that GHTA ceased the negotiations and opted for a Federal Mediator. "Part of my job as the Community Liaison is contract negotiations. As we met with members of GHTA, we could not reach an agreement. There was no compromise. GHTA eventually walked away from the table and requested a Federal Mediator," scoffed King.
Mr. Tim Duhanich, Vice President of GHTA, let the audience know that GHTA sought Federal Mediation. "We don't need management permission. Rule 2.4 in our policy gives us this authority."
What is the nature of this matter: young people or the contract?
"We want to be safe. We want our kids to be successful. Stability is key. We want our staff to return year after year. Young people need to know that we will be here. We have already lost good teachers. We don't want to lose more teachers because we do not have a contract. Our young people deserve stability, a safe learning environment, and successful outcomes," said Hart.
Will GHTA Plan for a strike?
Although Hart did not mention a teachers' strike, we asked. "I can't speak for 260 plus teachers. We want this process to work, which is why we have requested the aid of a Federal Mediator," said Hart.
Failing grades, poor state report cards, and unappreciative school board members are ingredients for teachers striking. School of Education Online programs says there are several reasons teachers strike, but the most common is inadequate financial resources, including low pay and crumbling infrastructure. They might also strike during contract negotiation periods that involve collective bargaining agreements between school district authorities and union representatives, or they may strike to bring attention to their issues and to garner public support.
Brown on Cleveland boldly asked the new Superintendent if he anticipated a strike. Dr. Reynolds did not answer the question. "We are looking forward to successful negotiations with our teachers," commented Reynolds. Our follow-up question to Dr. Reynolds is, will the district be prepared for a teacher's strike? Dr. Reynolds offered a concerning smile.
Per Garfield Heights City Schools' website, its vision is to become a premier educational institution. Ohio will recognize Garfield City Schools as one that prepares students to be leaders with real-world skills to contribute to a global society.
"Garfield City Schools, under its new leadership, can be excellent. The School Board must get out of their way. We have a new Superintendent and dedicated teachers willing to work. Everyone needs to work together on behalf of our children, and the School Board should do everything possible to provide the teachers with a fair and equitable contract. The Board says that they want a top-notched school system; let us see if they will do right by the teachers to help our children," commented Joann Williams.