NILES, Ohio — Negotiations for a school district in northeast Ohio are winding down.
NEA spokeswoman Traci Kempe said teachers’ base pay is a major sticking point. In other districts in Trumbull County, she said educators earned $34,000.
Kempe said the biggest problem is that although schools in the town of Niles are the third largest district in Trumbull County, they are the second lowest paid.
“Our base salary is $31,097. The neighboring communities we border, on three different Niles borders, cost between $6 and $8,000 more than the starting salary,” Kempe said. “We’re a far cry from the schools that border us. We’re a far cry from the county average. But yet, our administrators are at the top of the county.”
Still, the council declared a statement in two tentative agreements reached:
“These tentative agreements provided base salary increases each year for the next three years, in addition to numerous teacher step increases that average 3% or more per year,” the board said. “Our teachers rejected these agreements even though the base salary increases were above the state average for each year and represented the largest proposed salary increase for our teachers in over a decade.”
Kempe said it was difficult because in 2019 educators froze their salaries and concessions in their health care to save the district money while it was under emergency budget watch because the district de Niles City School was facing budget shortfalls.
“Between us renegotiating our health care and not replacing 12 teachers, we saved the district $1.5 million to help us out of this budget emergency in January 2022,” Kempe said.
Still, speaking to the online community, the district said the trustees and superintendent made financial concessions and did not take contract increases as claimed by the NEA.
Negotiations with a federal mediator continue Wednesday with both sides at the table. Both parties have indicated that they want a fair and just deal.
“We hope they will reach a mutual agreement and avoid the union’s intention to strike on Thursday, September 1,” Superintendent Ann Marie Thigpen said. “We can’t say it enough – our number one priority remains our students.”
If the school board and the union cannot reach an agreement, the union will vote to authorize a strike, and the strike will officially begin on September 1.
For students, this means remote learning begins on Thursday. Kindergarten to Grade 5 students would receive home learning kits, while Grades 6 to 12 students would be set up to go online to work at their own pace.
Like the schools in Columbus City, attendance will count, but sports will continue except for extracurricular activities. Take-out meals will be offered.