AKRON, Ohio — The Akron Board of Education unanimously voted Monday night to approve the Akron Education Association’s teachers’ contract, preventing a strike. The union will hold a meeting Tuesday to go over contract ratification.
JUST IN: @AkronPublic Board of Education unanimously votes to approve teachers contact. Union planning ratification meeting Tues evening pic.twitter.com/09CyYlsWKP
A tentative agreement was reached over the weekend, preventing the strike on Monday.
Akron teachers will NOT be going on strike Monday. Tentative agreement was reached this evening. @WEWS
AEA sent out the following message to members:
APS Superintendent Christine Fowler Mack released this statement following the negotiation:
The Akron Board of Education President pro tem Dr. N.J. Akbar also put out a statement after the tentative agreement was made:
Akbar and AEA president Pat Shipe declined to elaborate on the details of the agreement, but told News 5 compromises were made by both parties on sticking points, like wages and health insurance costs.
“We, in the last couple of days, have been revisiting the definition of compromise, and have reminded ourselves that that doesn’t mean one side gets everything they want,” Shipe said, explaining more work is ahead for both parties.
Akbar added, “Our students deserve not looking out just for today, but also for the future.”
News 5 partner, The Akron Beacon Journal, reported the administration agreed to annual raises of 4%, 3% and 3.5% over the three-year contract. The paper also learned that the district agreed to freeze the employee cost of premiums for insurance for three years.
“We’re always happy to know that we’re going to get a little bit more for what we do because we don’t get much,” said Deborah Holliday, an intervention specialist at Sam Salem CLC.
Another point of discussion throughout negotiations had been safety and discipline. Teachers and families recently raised concerns after several incidents involving weapons in schools and fights that injured students and staff.
“It’s scary when I hear about all of these things going on,” said Ann Wintrow, the mother of an APS teacher and grandmother of an APS student. “Can something like that happen at my daughter’s school? Can something like that happen at my granddaughter’s school?”
Wintrow was among several hundred people rallying outside of the APS administration building Monday evening. The group included teachers, school board members, families and community members calling for improvements to the district’s safety and discipline protocol.
“Learning is still taking place at Akron Public Schools, but kids need to feel safe at school. They may not feel safe at home, but they feel safe at school,” said Dr. Morgan Greene, a middle school science teacher in the district.
Greene said she personally does not feel unsafe, but was recently injured while breaking up a fight between students.
The union and the school board agreed the issues require community-based solutions and the district pledged to keep safety a top priority.
“Arriving at an agreement does not lessen our urgency to address the behavior and the needs of our students, and to make sure our staff members feel safe each and every day,” said APS Superintendent Christine Fowler Mack.
During negotiations, the board withdrew a proposal to make “injury” and not just “contact” a requirement when defining assaults committed by students. That means language related to student assaults in the current contract remains. Union leaders said they were not willing to budge on that issue.
“We still have many issues and solutions to look for regarding violence inside our schools,” Shipe said.
Both parties called Sunday’s tentative agreement a “fair deal.” They said the major driving force for resolving contract negotiations and avoiding a strike was the district’s students.
“Ultimately we have a duty to them and to the families in the Akron community to do what we just did. We sat down, we stayed at the table, even when it got very intense,” Shipe said.
“This isn’t a top-down approach,” said Akbar. “We’re not going to get to a reasonable, sustainable solution doing it that way.”
Details of the agreement will be shared with union members at a closed ratification meeting, which will happen at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Firestone High School.
Janelle Brown, a fifth-grade teacher at Sam Salem CLC, was part of the negotiating team and said school safety remains the top priority.
“We still want the board to understand that it’s still about safe schools: safe schools for students, safe schools for teachers, safe schools for the administration, just safe schools for all,” Brown said.
The administration voted unanimously to approve the tentative contract during Monday night’s school board meeting.