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Cleveland Heights-University Heights teachers’ union declines ‘last, best, final’ contract offer, with more talks set

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio — The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education and district teachers are set to return to the bargaining table on Nov. 5 after the union overwhelmingly rejected the latest contract offer last week.

What was implemented by the school board on Sept. 29 as the district’s “last, best and final offer” was voted down by the nearly 500-member Cleveland Heights Teachers Union by a tally of 437 to 11, with one abstention.

There were also 41 members who either did not return their ballots or turned them in late. Factoring them in as well, that worked out to 89 percent of the membership voting to decline the board’s offer, CHTU president Karen Rego said.

“Of the ones who voted, it was 97.5 percent” rejecting the contract offer and further authorizing the American Federation of Teachers Local 795 executive board to strike.

That in turn would require a 10-day advance notice of intent to strike being presented to the school board, which had not happened with another round of talks now scheduled.

“We are planning to negotiate Nov. 5, so that is positive movement,” Rego said. “We always want to stay at the table until we come to an agreement.”

While the CH-UH school board voted to implement the one-year contract so that it would otherwise go into effect on Jan. 1, board president Jodi Sourini said earlier that the district remains under a “continued duty” to negotiate.

“We will also meet any continuing bargaining obligation in the event the union shows a willingness to make meaningful change,” Sourini said on Oct. 2.

The teachers’ union remains receptive to surmounting the impasse that the school board cited in its Sept. 29 contract vote.

“In order to come together, both sides are going to have to come up with a creative settlement,” Rego said Monday (Oct. 12).

The union’s most recent one-year contract ended June 30, with nearly 60 hours of negotiations taking place from June 11 through August 19, including the use of a federal mediator beginning in July 2020.

The mediator is also expected to be back at the bargaining table on Nov. 5, two days after “Issue 69,” a proposed 4.8-mill operating levy, appears on the ballot.

“Since the levy outcome is unknown we don’t know if the district offer will change,” Rego added Monday. “Our demands remain the same at this time.”

Points of contention

Rego also disputed the $1 million price tag that the school board has claimed the teachers’ latest contract proposal would cost the district.

“We don’t believe that the ‘$1 million’ (figure) is an accurate number,” Rego said.

In a Sept. 30 statement released by the district, officials said that the school board and the teachers’ union “reached agreement on nearly all of the non-monetary issues” and certain monetary ones.

These tentatively agreed-upon points include supplemental contracts, support for co-teachers, and additional monetary support for disability and life insurance.

At the same time, the side failed to “failed to reach an