Health and safety, class size, and staffing are among key concerns.
Parma, OH — Tonight, teachers and intervention specialists at Summit Academy Parma announced their strike date, Tuesday, February 19, at a meeting of the school's Board of Directors. The announcement follows a nearly unanimous strike authorization vote on January 31, taken after nine months of negotiations.
Educators also spoke at the board meeting to emphasize key priorities for students and teachers that have not adequately been addressed in negotiations, including health and safety, caseload and class size, staffing, and preparation time.
Summit Academy Parma is a charter school catering to students with special needs, such as students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The school has struggled with health and safety concerns including a recent scabies outbreak and dangerous falling roof tiles, and a recent increase to the class size limit is a challenge to meeting the requirements in Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for the close to 90% of students who currently have IEPs.
In announcing the strike date, Katherine Pavella, an intervention specialist at the school who lives in Berea, told the Board of Directors, "As teachers, we do not see our students as revenue. Our students are intelligent, caring, funny, hardworking, creative, challenging, unique, and inspiring. They deserve nothing less than a high quality education that provides them with stability and addresses not only their academic requirements but their social and emotional needs as well."
Pavella announced the strike date for Tuesday, February 19, with the hope that "by providing notice of our strike date, it will give parents and all of us time to start preparing our students."
At the Board meeting, various teachers and intervention specialists spoke or held up cards explaining why they are prepared to go on strike next week, including:
- Bob Kaufman, a high school math teacher from Mayfield Village who has been at the school for ten years, is prepared to go on strike because "I can’t stand by and watch the quality of education decrease without trying to do something.”
- Kelly Granda, an art teacher from Parma who has been at the school for 16 years, is prepared to go on strike "to enhance teacher retention."
- Mike Meyers, an intervention specialist from Shaker Heights who has been at the school for nine years, is prepared to go on strike because “our kids shouldn’t have to go to school with holes in the walls.”
Many parents and students also spoke at the meeting in support of the teachers, including James Miller who spoke about the difference Summit Academy Parma teachers have made in his daughter’s education. “I see the passion for teaching in their eyes...When you guys go on strike [my daughter] will not be here because me, my daughter, and my family will stand up for you make sure you get what you deserve.”
"Summit Academy Parma's 24 teachers are deeply passionate about helping their students learn and grow." said OFT President Melissa Cropper, who attended the meeting. "They formed their union because they needed a voice on how the school functions and addresses student needs. Members of the community and, specifically, parents support these teachers in asking for more resources for the school."
Teachers and intervention specialists have scheduled an additional day of negotiations with school Management on Friday, February 15 and hope to reach a fair contract in time to avert a strike and ensure continuity and stability for students. Earlier this week, the union filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against Summit Academy Management, alleging a failure to negotiate in good faith. The recent filing is in addition to Unfair Labor Practice charges previously brought against the management company by the Union.
Lake Erie West, Summit Academy's sponsor, was also the sponsor for the scandal-ridden Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) charter school.
Pavella closed her statement by explaining that the strike is needed "because the alternative is to provide our students with less than they deserve. None of us can, in good conscience, continue leading our students down the crooked path that Summit Academy Management has paved."