Southeast teachers union holds off on strike as negotiations progress

Community enjoys ice cream social as SELDTA bargaining continues. Photo submitted by Monica Kiskadden

Students at Southeast Local Schools may start the school year with their regular teachers, who say a positive Aug. 9 bargaining session led them not to call for a strike for now.

The Southeast Local District Teachers Association (SELDTA), the board of education and a federal mediator met for six hours Aug. 9 to iron out new contract details. Monica Kiskadden, SELDTA spokesperson and a Southeast teacher, said the sides “remain divided on economic issues and issues that directly affect the learning environment of Southeast students.”

On Aug. 2, union membership had authorized their leaders to issue a 10-day strike notice if there was no movement at the Aug. 9 meeting. But Kiskadden said progress made during that session and the promise of another meeting Wednesday, Aug. 16 prompted SELDTA not to strike.

“We are continuing to work toward a fair contract that addresses teacher and staff concerns,” she said. “The members of our negotiations team continue to be willing to negotiate as often as necessary to reach an agreement on a contract before students begin school Aug. 30.”

Declining to cite specifics, Southeast Superintendent Bob Dunn hailed what he termed “positive strides” made in the Aug. 9 bargaining session and pledged to continue negotiating in good faith so students and staff can start the school year properly.

“Although the [school] board understands that the community would like to know the details of where the negotiations stand, Ohio law restricts what the parties to contract negotiations are permitted to say while negotiations are ongoing,” Board of Education President Mary Kaley said.

SELDTA represents approximately 200 teachers, librarians, counselors, nurses and other Southeast staff. SELDTA members have been working without a contract since June 30 and have been trying to reach an agreement with the school board since April 18.

Sticking points include the length of a workday, increasing insurance costs, salary and student discipline issues, Kiskadden said.

Southeast’s salary structure means the district’s new teachers have the lowest starting pay in the county and veteran teachers come in at third lowest in the county, she said. That low pay translates to teachers looking at Southeast as a career stepping stone instead of a career destination, Kiskadden said.

The Aug. 9 bargaining session also served as the backdrop for an ice cream social that SELDTA provided for district families.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.