Sebring teachers rally for support

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SEBRING, Ohio – Teachers in Youngstown and Sebring are in the classrooms working under the terms of expired contracts.

In Youngstown, the Youngstown Education Association has agreed to extend its  old deal through the end of September. Their contract expired June 30.

There was a rally in Sebring ahead of Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting, where approximately 40 members of the Sebring Local Education Association stood united in front of McKinley Junior/Senior High School.

“The message that we want to get across was that we wanted a fair and equitable contract,” said Heidi Shepherd, a 1st-grade teacher and spokeswoman for the SLEA.

The union’s contract expired Aug. 31, and negotiating teams met twice in June and twice so far in September. Shepherd said “communication issues” have made it difficult to schedule bargaining sessions with the board.

“We are hoping to eliminate the communication issues and to get people to support the teachers, and hope for negotiations to come to an end,” Shepherd said.

There also are some issues with personal days, reassignment and sick leave. Shepherd said there’s no intent to strike and they just want a fair contract.

“But sometimes it’s contract language. Sometimes money isn’t always the issue,” she said.

Sebring Superintendent Christopher Lewis said they’re getting closer to an agreement, but they’ve had to reduce staff because of budget shortfalls and a drop in enrollment.

“We’re hoping for more money from the state, and more money from the federal government, and certainly we’re going to go back and ask the taxpayers if they can help us out as well,” Lewis said.

Sebring Local Schools will ask voters to approve a 6.7-mill levy at the polls in November. There has been no property tax increase passed in Sebring since 1990.

A bargaining session on Sept. 11 lasted several hours and although progress was made, no contract was reached. Another bargaining session is set for Monday after school.

The teachers said they don’t want those talks to end without a tentative agreement.

“Let’s get it done, that’s what we want to do, we want to end it on Monday. We don’t care if it takes all night, we just would like it to end,” Shepherd said.

Lewis said he and the board would like to hammer out a contract on Monday as well.

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