East Cleveland Teachers Strike Over Contract Demands

By PAUL SINGER, Associated Press Writer

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) - Teachers and staff went on strike Monday to press their demand for a pay increase. The district hired substitutes to keep schools open.

Teachers set up picket lines outside schools, carrying placards reading "Teachers on Strike" and pumping their fists and cheering in response to honking by passing cars.

The East Cleveland Education Association represents 461 teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists and librarians in the district, which has 5,800 pupils. A three-year contract expired April 3. Pay and security are among the issues in dispute.

Outside Shaw High School, some students shouted support to several dozen pickets. Some students emerged from the building to complain there were no classes.

"I don't know why they made us come in. They're not doing anything," said Shanan Baker, 16. "Everyone's just hanging out in the cafeteria."

Baker left school and said she might return. She said students were sent to the gymnasium and auditorium to await plans for the day.

Messages seeking comment on classroom arrangements were left at the school and the district offices.

Thirteen-year-old John Moncrief, a seventh-grader at Mayfield Elementary School, said he was looking forward to a resolution to the strike.

"They should just go in and teach and people should pay them," he said.

Union president Mary Alice Conkey said the strike resulted from differences over pay and other issues.

"They offered a 2 percent raise," Conkey said. "They gave the custodians union a 3 percent raise, which they deserved. But what does that say about their attitude toward the teachers?"

Administration officials said schools will be open using substitute teachers and administrative personnel.

"The teachers will be out there for a long, long time because we will not give them a 6 percent raise," said Superintendent Elvin Jones. "We can't afford it, and that's all there is to it."

Conkey said key issues in the contract are better security in the schools and better protection from health hazards in the buildings, some of which are undergoing reconstruction and repair.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)