Westlake teachers closer to a possible strike

Westlake teachers closer to a possible strike
Westlake teachers closer to a possible strike. (Source: WOIO)
Westlake teachers closer to a possible strike. (Source: WOIO)

WESTLAKE, OH (WOIO) - The Westlake School Board meeting ended heatedly Monday night.

Teachers are furious with board members after they abruptly walked out of the meeting.

That move made it very possible a strike may be coming.

The Westlake Teachers Association planned to present a pledge to the school board at the meeting.

The pledge states it is a binding agreement that "resolves the ongoing negotiations crisis between the parties without a strike by the WTA and without unilateral implementation of a last, best and final offer by the Board."

Union members say they wanted a resolution, but now they're left having to vote on this last offer without any more discussion.

School board members walked off of the stage after teachers and parents asked for more time to address teacher contract negotiations.

The teachers union says the board gave them just 15 minutes to talk during public comment and they usually extend that time so everyone who wants to speak gets a chance at the podium.

Parents and teachers rose from their seats, chanting "let them speak!" when board members tried to move on to the agenda's next item.

"We simply wanted to address that board with a pledge that we would not strike. Since I was not afforded that opportunity, I'll speak now," said Westlake Teacher's Association President Patrick McMorrow.

McMorrow went up to the stage and addressed the crowd after school board members left.

He read from the pledge he had planned to present to them.

"We the teachers of Westlake stand before you today with the hope of resolution for the best interest of our students, our community and our colleagues," he said.

"The WTA is united and fully prepared to strike, but we don't want to strike," McMorrow said.

Before the meeting, teachers held up signs outside of the high school that showed how much money they've lost in salary cuts over the last three years. Signs ranged with numbers from $5,000 to $12,000.

Westlake teachers faced 2.5 percent pay cuts and rising insurance premiums. On average, they make $74,000 a year.

Teachers say they have had enough of years of concessions.

"They look at the quality of the contract being offered to them and if the salary isn't competitive to other districts in Cuyahoga County, those quality teachers will choose to go to another district," said Westlake Teachers Association spokeswoman and teacher Loretta Tindall.

Some students went on stage after the meeting to speak up for their teachers.

"I wanted to mention how much the teachers made an impact in my life and how much they've done for me," said Westlake High School senior Alex Ikezawa.

Ikezawa is president of the Model United Nations and is heading to Ohio State next year.

"The high school years I've spent here, the last four years have been the most impactful, as I've stated multiple times in my entire life. And I don't think that's going to change. I think I'm going to remember these teachers for the rest of my life," he said.

Next the teacher's union will vote on whether or not to accept the school board's "last, best offer."

The board can negotiate or implement its own plan, which could lead to a strike.

According to Ohio law, the union would have to file a 10 day notice and vote before a strike.

The Westlake Teachers Association represents 275 teachers.

Statewide, Ohio teachers make $56,500 on average.

The Ohio Education Association says teacher salaries vary depending on the area, and oftentimes suburbs have higher salaries to be competitive and attract the best teachers.

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