This is an archived story. Follow this link for newer developments on the teachers strike.
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Hours after voting to go on strike, Columbus teachers assembled picket lines outside school buildings Monday with no new negotiations scheduled.
With students, parents, and teachers in limbo, spokespersons for the 4,500-member teachers union and the school board for Ohio’s largest public school district spoke at separate news conferences Monday. Columbus Education Association union spokesperson Regina Fuentes and Board President Jennifer Adair agreed at least on one thing: They wanted to get back to the negotiating table.
“We understand that parents are in a difficult space right now, but we also want them to understand we are doing this for the students of Columbus,” Fuentes said, “and we truly are making this sacrifice because we want the schools that Columbus students deserve.”
NBC4 exclusive interview with union spokesperson
Teachers voted overwhelming Sunday night to go on strike, with classes set to begin on Wednesday. A series of contentious negotiations with Columbus City Schools and the board of education have centered increasingly around building conditions, class sizes, and the availability of art and physical education classes, in addition to pay.
“They need to come through with accountability to let our students, our parents know that they are actually going to fix these schools,” Fuentes said.
Adair called the union’s decision to strike “incredibly disappointing” and said the board delivered teachers a fair, comprehensive offer that addressed the union’s concerns.
“Our offer to CEA put our children first and prioritized their education and growth,” Adair said. “We believe we offered a generous compensation package for our teachers and provisions that would positively impact their classrooms and our students.”
The board held an emergency meeting Monday evening, immediately going into a closed executive session which lasted for more than three hours. Adair is expected to make a comment following the meeting, according to sources.
Comments from Board President Jennifer Adair
The first school affected by the strike was Woodcrest Elementary, a year-round facility that returned to the classroom July 27. Adair said Woodcrest students transitioned to online learning Monday.
All Columbus City School students are assigned a Chromebook that can be used for remote learning. Students in need of a Chromebook or other technological assistance can call the district’s Central Enrollment Center at 614-365-4011.
“We’re upset,” Adair said. “That’s why we’re here, that’s why we’re putting strategy in place and that’s why we need them to come join us to help make these changes happen.”
Adair said she and fellow board members await instruction from a federal mediator on future negotiating sessions. The school board has called an emergency meeting for Monday night.
Statement from district superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon
Between the start of a union rally and the emergency school board meeting, Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dr. Talisa Dixon posted a statement to the district’s website, saying online learning to start the school year is “an unfortunate and less than ideal situation.”
“I understand this is weighing heavily on our teachers and staff, our students and families, and our community, just as it is on the Board and district leaders,” Dixon wrote. “And as Superintendent, my priority remains with our students, and it is my responsibility to meet their needs while also supporting our staff in their ability to do their jobs.”
Dixon pointed parents toward the district’s back-to-school hub for more information on how the district is working to serve the students as the strike continues.
“It is my hope that we are able to come to a resolution quickly and get all of our students back in their classrooms with their teachers as soon as possible,” she said. “It’s what our students deserve.”
Comments from Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, other city leaders
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and other community leaders urged the sides to return to the bargaining table.
“We can do this if and only if the district and the CEA return to the table and restart negotiations right now,” he said. “Time is critical, and families and children all across Columbus are counting on you to reach a resolution and restore a sense of certainty and stability.”