Just two days after several Strongsville schools were closed, school officials found another threat of violence.
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio - Strongsville teachers and board of education members met for more than 13 hours Sunday afternoon into early Monday morning, and there is still no deal as the strike enters its seventh week.
The teachers' union read a brief statement after the marathon negotiation session ended after 2:30 a.m. Monday, but would not answer any questions.
SEA president Tracy Linscott said in the statement:
"Tonight, the board finally admitted what the SEA has known for months. They have $3.2 million more than they had claimed. When you add that to the $1.6 million since the strike began, the total savings that they have available is $4.8 million. The board could have ended this strike tonight… and the teachers could have gone right back into their classrooms immediately. Unfortunately, the $4.8 million that they have is not enough to convince the board to put the students ahead of their personal agendas and the strike continues."
The federal mediated scheduled the Sunday meeting for 1:30 p.m. in Independence. Pro-teacher parents and students greeted the sides.
"God, we're all praying that it comes to an end today but we really don't know. This board up to now has really shown no willingness to negotiate," said Clara Arroyo.
Arroyo joined several others as they placed green "For Strongsville" duck tape over their mouths and held up signs in a silent protest. They stood outside the entrance Strongsville Superintendent John Krupinski used to enter into the building.
"We need to come to an agreement. That agreement has to be sustainable and functional, not only for the short term, but for the long term," Krupinski said.
When asked about the parents standing outside wanting arbitration, Krupinski said, "... arbitration is not my decision. It's the board of education's decision. However, that decision has already been made."
Still 9th grader Kyla Arroyo continued to stand outside.
"I would say to the board of education, please, please accept binding arbitration. If what the board of education is offering is really fair, an unbiased third party member would recognize that..."
Arroyo went on to describe what the strike has done to her education.
"I've had teachers that don't speak English. I've had eight math teachers since this all started and none of them knew where the last one left off."
While some parents said they've already removed their children from the Strongsville City School system, others said they're seriously considering it if the strike doesn't end soon.
"I want the strike to end. This has been ridiculous already. I'm right in the middle but I blame the board a little bit more. I think that they're stone-walling. They really haven't negotiated. We need the teachers back. The high school has not learned anything for months now," said Kathy Burkart, whose daughter is a freshman.
Teachers have been on strike in Strongsville since March 4. There was hope that the two sides were close to a deal after several days of marathon meetings with a mediator last week, but they failed to reach an agreement.
Since the start of the strike, there have been eight meetings with the federal mediator.
All preschools, elementary schools and the high school were closed Monday in Strongsville after a bomb threat.
The principal of Chapman Elementary School in Strongsville is asking the community to be on the lookout for vandals who've been targeting the school and destroying property.
Families in Strongsville are hoping the fresh start of a new school year will remove the bitter taste from a teachers' strike that divided the community last spring.