COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The school board for Columbus City Schools said it stands by its final offer made to the teachers’ union last week.
At the start of Tuesday’s board meeting, the board immediately went into executive session to “prepare for, conduct, or review negotiations or bargaining sessions with public employees.” The session lasted approximately an hour.
Board of Education President Jennifer Adair claimed the union, the Columbus Education Association (CEA), has not responded to requests from the board for feedback on outstanding issues including compensation.
“When we were down to the remaining issues, including compensation, the Board team repeatedly asked for feedback and responses from CEA without success,” Adair said, according to a press release from the board. “Upon careful consideration of CEA’s position, the Board presented a final offer.”
When notice of the offer was announced last week, the district did not share specific details but said several key issues were addressed, including salary increases that exceed the state and national average, new leave benefits unique to the District, and “creative opportunities” for teachers’ professional development.
“A final offer is a standard part of the negotiations process — and the offer we provided was fair, comprehensive, and respectful,” Adair said Tuesday.
A post made to CEA’s Facebook page before Tuesday’s board meeting said the board’s final offer doesn’t include “proposals to support and bolster learning conditions for students.”
“When the Board walked away from students and declared that they were done bargaining with nearly a month left before our contract expires, they sent a statement out regarding pay, benefits, and training for teachers,” the post states. “What they didn’t mention was a single student issue.”
Some of those issues, according to the post, include smaller class sizes, full-time art, music, and physical education teachers at the elementary level, and functional heating and air conditioning at all schools.
Adair’s statement said the vast majority of HVAC work is underway in buildings that need air conditioning, and that class sizes average 22 students or less.
Board member Christina Vera encouraged both sides to work together to the benefit of the students, who return to school on Aug. 24.
“Our students are watching our behavior, and I want them to see us working together for their benefit,” Vera said in the board’s written statement. “We love our students, and we know our teachers do too. We are thankful for our teachers.”
Negotiations between the two sides began in March. As of Tuesday, there are no scheduled negotiations for August.
The current teacher contract expires on Aug. 21. CEA is scheduled to meet Aug. 4, where it is scheduled to hold votes on whether to issue a strike notice or vote on the board’s offer.
Adair’s full statement is below:
The Board remains focused on welcoming our students back to school. This is why we began negotiations with the Columbus Education Association (CEA) in March – to ensure we had time to complete the negotiations process well before the start of school.
Any suggestion that we don’t want to negotiate or we walked away from negotiations is false; we held 19 meetings over four months. During these meetings, the Board and CEA negotiations teams worked collaboratively to find creative solutions to better serve our students. When we were down to the remaining issues, including compensation, the Board team repeatedly asked for feedback and responses from CEA without success. Upon careful consideration of CEA’s position, the Board presented a final offer.
A final offer is a standard part of the negotiations process – and the offer we provided was fair, comprehensive, and respectful. Recently, some inaccurate information has been shared about our district, and we want to correct some of the key errors. For example,
* HVAC: Improvements have been funded with ESSER dollars, and the vast majority of that work is underway in the remaining buildings in need of air conditioning.
* CLASS SIZE: Our class size average is currently 22 students or fewer.
Also, we have made great strides in expanding our certified staff to serve all of our students including increasing our nursing teams.
We have offered a contract that demonstrates our appreciation for and recognition of our teachers and their commitment to our students, families and school district.
On August 24, our students will return to the classroom – they are our priority. We are ready to start and to welcome our amazing teachers back to school.Jennifer Adair, Columbus City Schools Board of Education president