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

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UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio — The Cleveland Heights-University Heights Board of Education and district teachers are set to return to the bargaining table 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 has not happened. Another round of negotiations has been 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 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


Acero charter school network should add, not cut special education positions, union says

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Union leaders and concerned parents are calling “unconscionable” a decision by the city’s second-largest charter school system’s to slash about two dozen special education positions.

At a time when parents are struggling with remote learning, Acero Schools has chosen to make cuts when they should be adding positions, union leaders said during a Zoom conference call Tuesday. Acero called the claim of cutting staff by half “categorically false.”

“I want to be really, really clear: Acero is choosing to cut positions that serve our most vulnerable population of students. They have told us repeatedly that this is not financially motivated,” said Caroline Rutherford, a union rep for Acero schools.

Rutherford accused Acero of saving “a few pennies on the backs of our students.”

Acero has cut 26 positions — about half of the special education jobs across the organization’s 15-school system — in recent months, union leaders said. The cuts have come through a combination of layoffs and not filling open positions, they said.

“As educators, we know that relationships are at the heart of what we do,” said Maggie Meter, a special education case manager with Acero. “One adult in the school can make the difference in a student’s educational career.”

Acero issued a statement Tuesday, calling the union’s criticisms “an organized misinformation campaign that engenders fear and division.”

“On Oct. 2, Acero Schools announced a staffing reduction impacting 11 paraprofessional positions,” the statement read. “Ten individuals are directly impacted by this reduction, as the remaining position was vacant. This reduction is a result of declining enrollment and serviceable minutes. Acero serves 7,050 scholars, 80 fewer than last school year and 450 fewer than the year before.”

Acero teachers made headlines in 2018 when they became the first charter school teachers in the nation to go on strike —