After nine days on the picket line, teachers and specialists at Ohio’s first unionized charter school have their first contract. Management at Summit Academy in Parma, a suburb of Cleveland, agreed to the Ohio Federation of Teachers’ key demand: language limiting class size and requiring two adults to be present in every classroom. (tinyurl.com/y4w63odv)
These amendments will make it possible to give the school’s 200 special needs children a quality education. Ranging from first graders up to high school seniors, their challenges include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and severe learning disabilities. When the school opened, class sizes were held to 18 students and there were two teachers or other education professionals in every room. But as workers who quit were not replaced, the for-profit school failed to maintain those standards.
While strikers were not demanding a pay increase, the contract includes language to reopen discussions on pay later in the year. Salaries range from $31,000 to $40,000 a year, which makes it difficult to retain staff and prevent turnover. Strikers recognize that this affects the quality of education they can provide.
Poor sanitation and building maintenance were also strike issues, and the union won a commitment to address them.
In the days leading up to the contract vote March 1, teachers maintained high spirits on all-day picket lines. There was plenty of chanting and regular “airing of grievances.” Honks of support were constant. Parma is home to many autoworkers and other union members. Parents supported the strikers.
Now workers at a second Summit Academy location, this time in Painesville, have voted to unionize.