In just one week, Akron Public Schools and the district’s teachers union will begin federal mediation in hopes of coming to an agreement on terms and signing a new contract. This comes as the battle to reach new terms extends to more than a year and a half.
“They’re exhausted,” Akron Education Association president Pat Shipe said. “Our teachers are exhausted.”
The No. 1 topic between APS and the teachers? Safety.
“Our schools are, in many cases, dangerous places on a daily basis for our students, for the adults in the building,” Shipe told 3News Monday.
After continuous violence in schools, teachers are openly saying the schools aren’t safe. The latest scare came on Monday, when both Litchfield and Firestone Community Learning Centers were placed on lockdown after a student brought a gun into the building.
While no one was hurt, that has not always been the case: On Nov. 4, a 16-year-old was stabbed at Firestone. Less than a month later, a second stabbing at Buchtel CLC left a 16-year-old injured. There was also a large fight at Ellet that led to police getting involved.
The three-year contract between teachers and the district expired on June 30, 2021. Negotiations on how to address the violence has been the top point of contention between the two parties, keeping teachers from signing another dotted line.
“They have to engage in an authentic way with the people that are on the ground every day in the school buildings,” Shipe said. “You can’t make high-level decisions in a vacuum and then expect them to work, because they’re not.”
In November, almost all of Akron’s teachers rejected a fact finder’s recommendation for a new deal, saying they want more input on just how dangerous it is in the classroom.
“By far, overwhelmingly, the No. 1 concern was student violence within our buildings,” Shipe said of the “no” vote. “That’s what we’re moving forward on. That is the No. 1 issue that we have to deal with.”
Akron Public Schools Superintendent Christine Fowler-Mack denied 3News’ request for an interview Monday, but told us in a statement, “For the sake of our students and staff, we must work together for a resolution. They give me hope. We are always optimistic that by meeting face-to-face and discussing openly and honestly the issues before us, we can resolve our challenges.”
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