EUCLID, Ohio — It was a packed and emotionally charged Board of Education meeting for Euclid City Schools Wednesday evening. The Euclid Teachers Association has been rallying for a fair contract after working without one and negotiating for more than 100 days. Both sides said they just want what’s best for the students.
Josh Stephens has been an educator for 17 years. He’s been a teacher at Euclid City Schools for nearly his entire career.
“I’ve never seen a negotiation so bitter and so dragged out needlessly," he said.
Stephens is the spokesperson for the Euclid Teachers Association (ETA).
These demonstrations have been happening at Board of Education meetings for months.
“Unfortunately I feel that the Board has not come through with reasonable contract offers. Much of what they want is highly partisan and political and ends up being an anti-child agenda that we not seen in Euclid at any time in this association’s history,” said Stephens.
Wednesday’s meeting was fiery.
One main point of contention was the Board taking a recess to eat cake.
"We don't even get lunch. There's no substitutes. We don't get lunch and you're eating cake in front of us," said one teacher at the meeting.
The cake was in recognition of members who are retiring from the Board and the crowd was not happy about that or the fact that during the meeting other contracts were approved, including superintendent Chris Papouras’ agreement.
Speakers sharing the ETA's perspective were met with cheers, but Board of Education president Donna Sudar attempted to keep to the agenda.
"We came here and packed this and made you uncomfortable time and time again. We've reached out to you and you still ignore us," said Euclid teacher Jason Cleaver.
The Board of Education said it has no intention to negotiate in public, but did release this statement to Spectrum News:
"Our number one priority is always to provide a quality education for all Euclid City School students. The antiquated contract currently in place is an obstacle to the District’s long-term goal of providing a superior educational district to Euclid families. Although we have no intention of negotiating this contract in public, it is important for us to emphasize that the contract changes we have proposed are designed to increase student success and encourage collaboration with teachers on districtwide curricular matters and pre-K through 12 instructional practices.
We are committed to negotiating an equitable and competitive deal for our teachers and other represented employees. Although we started bargaining with other groups well after with ETA, we have reached agreement or tentative agreement with all of the other associations in the District – only the Euclid Teacher’s Association (ETA) agreement remains unresolved. We have negotiated with ETA in good faith from the onset of our discussions. That is why the allegation in the ETA’s media advisory that the Board “refuses to meaningfully interact with ETA” is preposterous – we have never 'cut off' negotiations. In fact, the Board has had 22 bargaining sessions with the ETA, and continues to work to reach agreement. In the one instance cited in its advisory, the ETA was unable to meet until that date because their head negotiator was unavailable.
It is disappointing that spurious allegations like this continue to be circulated to the community and to the media when our most important focus should be on educating our students. That is why resolving this issue – and resolving it soon – is so vital to our ongoing mission.
Euclid City Schools have some of the best and brightest teachers in our classrooms, and we have nothing but the highest respect for them and what they do for our students every day. Again, it is not the intention of the Board to negotiate in public, but it is important to recognize the esteem we have for our teachers, and that the Board’s compensation proposal reflects that.
We look forward to reaching an agreement with ETA, and we deeply appreciate our community’s support. On this we can all agree: We are committed to improving student success."
Stephens said negotiations will continue in January and the ETA has several concerns, but there is one core demand.
“We would like the Board to drop their demand for the right to transfer teachers at any time during the school year. We find that this would be highly disruptive to student education and success," he said.
The union has approved a 10-day strike, but Stephens said they don’t want it to get to that point.
“We do not want to strike," he said. "However, we will do what is necessary in order to obtain a fair contract for the teacher’s of this district because that is what the children of this district deserve.”
Despite the division, there is one common goal: student success.
Everyone agrees that’s what matters most as the contract negotiations carry on.