East Cleveland Teachers Return To Class After Strike

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) - Teachers and school staff of the Cleveland suburb of Cleveland Heights went back to work Monday, ending a two-week strike.

The decision Sunday night to accept the proposed contract, reached after an hour-long, closed-door meeting at First Baptist Church in Shaker Heights, ended a strike by the 641-member East Cleveland Education Association.

"The mayor is very pleased to know it was settled amicably," said Cheryl Neal Reed, spokeswoman for Mayor Emmanuel W. Onunwor.

Union members will formally vote on the contract at their school buildings Wednesday, but no one objected Sunday night. Union leaders estimated 350 attended.

Among the gains cited by the union, teachers were happiest about protection of their health benefits and paid holidays, maintaining the length of their school days, allowing up to two years of parental leave, receiving adequate equipment, books and supplies for their classes and being notified if one of their students has a violent background.

Salaries would be increased by 3 percent on July 1, by 2 percent on July 1, 2003, and by 3 percent on July 1, 2004.

Superintendent Elvin Jones said he is happy normalcy can resume.

The district had hired substitute teachers during the strike, which began April 15. But hundreds of parents had kept their children home from school.

The union, which represents teachers, librarians, guidance counselors, social workers, nurses and psychologists, had been wrangling with the East Cleveland school board after a three-year contract expired April 3.

"I'm happy about going back to work - very, very happy," said Esther Boyd, a 28-year math teacher at Shaw High School.

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