More than 300 teachers came to the regular meeting of the Westerville school board Monday, Aug. 24 to ask for a fair contract.
In the public comments section toward the meeting’s end, one by one, teachers approached the podium. Each gave their name, position, years taught in district, years lived in the district, whether they have children in the district and then said, “I care about my students and deserve a fair contract.”
The teachers all wore red shirts and black pants. Walking into the building, volunteers distributed to them name tags, red “respect” signs and cards with a written script for their speeches at the podium.
Before the start of the 6 p.m. meeting, the crowd of teachers overflowed the meeting room at the district’s Early Learning Center, 936 Eastwind Drive, winding in a line out the door, into the hallway and down the stairs.
The school board and the union representing district teachers, the Westerville Education Association, are in negotiations for a new contract, said Greg Viebranz, executive director of communications and technology for Westerville City Schools.
Viebranz said due to collective bargaining protocol, he is not at liberty to release details of specific items being negotiated.
“What I can tell you, however, is that the board’s primary goal has been and continues to be to finalize a new contract with the WEA,” he said. “Both sides remain at the table and progress toward a successor contract continues to be made.”
The teachers’ existing three-year contract expires Monday, Aug. 31. Negotiations on a successor contract began June 9.
Viebranz said two days were set aside this week to continue the collective bargaining process.
Kyle King, a history teacher at Westerville Central High School, said WEA leaders asked teachers to come to the school board meeting to ask for a fair contract.
“I care about the education and the kids deserve the best quality education that we can provide,” he said.
The meeting ended at 8:40 p.m.; 197 people signed up to speak, though not all of them actually addressed the board.
In other action at Monday’s board meeting:
* The board passed a resolution publicly opposing Ohio House Bill 70, also known as the Youngstown Plan.
Board member Rick Vilardo read the resolution aloud and called it a very important issue.
Board member Nancy Nestor-Baker called the bill a “an appalling and extreme assault on local schools.”
“When I first saw this I thought it was a joke. It entirely turns over the school’s authority to the state. What happens in Youngstown today could happen to any of us tomorrow,” she said and received applause from the audience.
Vilardo agreed it’s a “very disconcerting piece of legislation” and asked community members to write letters and make phone calls to express their views.
* 17 students, from all three Westerville high schools, were recognized for participating in the district’s summer graduation ceremony.
* The board recognized Frances Quast, administrative assistant in the treasurer’s office, who recently died after battling cancer the last year and a half.
“She was a tremendous lady. She was very special in our department,” said district Treasurer Bart Griffith.
“Frances was wonderful. I was really touched by her in so many ways. It was hard to say goodbye,” said Nestor- Baker.
A celebration of life service for Quast is planned for 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 28, at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church, 100 E. Schrock Road.
The next regular meeting of the school board is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Early Learning Center.