Strongsville district, teachers split on retirement, health benefits; Order increases at high school

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio - Teachers and administrators in the Strongsville school district struggled to find common ground as day two of the strike continued.

"Our proposal reflects the need to balance our budget," said Strongsville City Schools Superintendent John Krupinski.

"Give us an opportunity to discuss this," said Christine Canning, Strongsville Educational Association spokeswoman, at a news conference. "Don't just walk away from the table."

Krupinski said the two parties are divided over compensation, retirement and health benefits. Canning declined to comment about the disagreements from their union's perspective.

"We have to operate in the black," Krupinski said. "We can't operate in the red."

"We are always willing, despite any reports to the contrary, to come back to the table so long as the board of education is willing to finally negotiate in good faith," Canning said.

Strongsville teachers began striking Monday after contract negotiations with the Strongsville Board of Education fell through over the weekend. Both sides said they haven't heard from the federal mediator overseeing the process as to when the next negotiation meeting will take place.

Meanwhile, the students are bearing the brunt of a bitter fight.

"I'm a little bit concerned because I have to self-study for a lot of things," said Joy Schaeffer, a junior at Strongsville High School.

Schaeffer was concerned about her performance on upcoming advanced placement tests without her regular teachers in place.  Instead of relying on substitute teachers to help her prep, she instead relied on her peers Tuesday. Together, she said they taught each other in the school's library.

"We laid out a plan of what we want to do and a got a projector out to research some things online," Schaeffer said.

"Our students deserve the best education possible," Krupinski said. "We're providing the best we can right now. It's improving as we speak."

Krupinski said the district hired an additional 10 substitutes Tuesday to teach at the high school. They're hiring more in the coming days. Krupinski and students said the extra workforce has made a dramatic difference.

"Today, they've really made an effort to keep the kids out of the hallways and into the classroom," Schaeffer said.

On Monday, students described a chaotic scene at the high school. Social media photos and videos showed students roaming the hallways, doing handstands against chalkboards, watching TV and packed into classrooms at a time when they should have been learning.

"It is my hope that we can resolve this as soon as possible," Krupinski said.

"We just want to sit down and negotiate in good faith," Canning said.

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