Garfield Heights, Ohio. - Garfield Heights Teachers' Association (GHTA) has been working without a contract since June 30, 2022. Due to the frustrations of working with the Garfield Heights elected School Board, the Teachers' Association opted to bring in a federal mediator to help them with negotiations. Four and a half months later, the teachers experienced little progress and cooperation from the School Board negotiation team.
On Monday, October 10, 2022, The Board canceled the scheduled work session and rescheduled the session for Wednesday, October 12, 2022, and returned with apparent opposition and strife.
On October 11, 2022, members of the Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County (BWCCC) and the Women Commission for Education and Training (WCET) wrote a letter to Nichelle Daniels, President of the Elected School Board, and its members, asking them to return to the bargaining table for negotiations. "We do not want the teachers to strike. A strike will impact our entire region socially, emotionally, and financially," stated Kimberly Taylor, the Education Liaison for the Commission. Dorothy Brown added, "our children's education suffered during COVID, and a strike will cause them to suffer even more. Individuals on the Board should be concerned about the welfare of our children. If the teachers strike, some parents will not be able to go to work. We must be able to think this through. People deserve fair wages, a safe working environment, and appropriate benefits," said Brown. Brown is the Labor and Negotiation Manager with BWCCC and WCET.
In showing good faith in working with the Board, the teachers are sound in not wanting to strike. The sentiments of disappointment with the actions of the Board are real. "I like what I do. I enjoy teaching children in this community," resonated with many teachers before the October 17, 2022, School Board meeting.
"This morning (October 17, 2022), we met with the Board negotiation team at 8 am with the federal mediator. We were making progress. We were hopeful. The federal mediator came to speak with us to gather some paperwork requested by the Board's negotiation team; when the mediator returned, the Board vanished. They left unexpectedly. They said nothing. They left! We found their actions disrespectful," says a member of the Negotiation Team for the Teachers' Association. Immediately following this public comment, Daniels opted to attend an executive session. The motion was approved, and the Board members left the room, leaving the audience with concerns and questions. Approximately 200 teachers participated in the Board meeting.
Marva Patterson, Social Justice Manager for the BWCCC, questioned Daniels's actions. "Was this an appropriate action by Daniels? The more I ponder her actions, I think about what is at stake. I thought it was inappropriate, given the circumstances surrounding the possibility of a teacher's strike. Instead of finishing the School Board meeting and taking the time to hear and evaluate the legitimate concerns of the affected educators in the room, they all left after hearing from two people. An executive session was called at 6:42 pm before the school board meeting officially closed at 7 pm, which left 18 minutes remaining. Are there protocols they must follow? Did they violate a statute that requires the usage of the entire hour?
These are life-changing events, and it appears the school Board was bored with the tenor of the room and wanted to leave to avoid accountability," scoffed Patterson.
As a result of the disrespectful behavior exemplified by the Garfield Heights School Board and Administration, the Teachers' Association Union Representative stated that they would deliver a ten-day strike notice to the Garfield Heights School Board. "Be clear, we will continue to negotiate a contract during this time," stated the Teachers' representative.
If the teachers vote to strike, the strike will take effect Monday, October 31, 2022, at 8 am.
The Black Women Commission of Cuyahoga County is committed to supporting the Garfield Heights Teachers' Association. During a live press conference, the BWCCC and WCET confirmed their support with TV 19 News. "With all members in agreement, BWCCC and WCET are staunchly supporting the GHTA. We believe that teachers are the backbone and rib of every school district. If a bone break, the body becomes crippled. And if there is a handicap that causes interference with daily living skills, we will help. Rest assured, we are readily prepared to aid the Garfield Heights Teachers' Association and move the City's children forward without further interruptions in their education and beyond the distraction of these negotiations," commented Kimberly F. Brown, President of the BWCCC.
Garfield Heights City School recently received low marks from the Ohio Department of Education. Out of 607 school districts, Garfield schools rated 603, the bottom of the barrel. "For two years, our children's education suffered due to COVID, and it appears that the School Board does not care if the young people's education falls further behind. Everyone in our region should be concerned, especially Mayor Matthew Burke. A city is only as good as its educational partner. What parent is interested in moving to a city if the school system is not producing great fruit," asked Garfield heights resident Joanna Williams.
Concerned parents can contact members of Garfield Heights Elected Board Members and Dr. Richard Reynolds, Superintendent of Garfiled City Schools, at (216) 475-8100 for more information regarding the forthcoming strike.