Local school district says they will temporarily stop special education classes if teachers go on strike

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This article was published on 19 News by Michelle Nicks on November 29, 2020.

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio (WOIO) – Breaking details as 19 News learns that if teachers in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District go on strike Wednesday, the District plans to temporarily stop special education classes.

You can read the letter from the district 19 News has obtained below.

Teachers and parents say it’s a decision that would impact hundreds of students who are the most vulnerable educationally.

Mandy Boyles says her eighth-grade son is autistic and has a right to his education just like every other student, “It’s not an appropriate education. It’s not something they can just stop. My son can’t suddenly become not autistic, it doesn’t work that way.”

Boyles and other parents of students with special needs received a letter from the Cleveland Heights-University Heights School District that says they will temporarily shut down special education classes on Wednesday, Dec. 2 if the teachers walk off the job. The District says special education classes won’t resume until the dispute is resolved.

“It seems that all they care about, all the Superintendent cares about is winning. She wants to beat the teachers at this game. Because that’s how she sees it – she sees it as a game, and our kids are going to lose,” Boyle said.

Karen Rego, the President of the Cleveland Heights Teacher’s Union says, “I think it’s deplorable. I think that shows they’re not putting students first.”

Rego expects teachers will be on the picket line Wednesday because she says after 16 hours of talks last week the teachers and administration are not on the same page. But she says the students shouldn’t have to pay the price.

“We’re talking high need students. Many of them with multiple disabilities. It’s going to impact several hundred that receive services from special ed teachers,” Rego said.

The District says it’s been unable to secure substitutes who are licensed to teach the special education students. But promise they will provide compensatory services equivalent to whatever the students miss in-class time.

In a statement the President of the Board of Education, Jodi Sourini says in part, “The District is continuing it’s efforts to secure substitutes licensed to provide special education and/or related services. The District recognizes the importance of the special education and related services outlined in Individualized Education Plans.”

But the Cleveland Heights Teacher’s Union says there’s one sure way to solve the problem. “If they want to give them the proper services – they can offer us a fair contract,” Rego said.

The teachers and the District are at odds over a financial issue involving health care premiums. The union says some teachers could lose between $3,000 and $5,000 in take-home pay if they were to take the District’s last best offer. But the President of the union says they aren’t interested because it would mean everything they’ve negotiated over the last 10 years would be gone.