by Kristin Casale
Stow -- More than 300 Stow-Munroe Falls School District employees left the June 25 Board of Education meeting after staff members were prohibited from speaking due to School Board policy.
With the current three-year union contracts for the certified and classified staff members due to end June 30, the employees attended the meeting to support each other. Stow-Munroe Falls employees also were joined by approximately 25 Cuyahoga Falls School District staff members.
The contracts for the district's certified and classified employees cover all aspects of compensation, according to District Superintendent Dr. Russell Jones, who declined to comment on the negotiations.
"It is inappropriate to discuss negotiations during the process," he said.
District Business Manager Tom Adams echoed Jones' remarks, saying, "We are still engaged in the bargaining process."
Several residents addressed the Board, but when Stow Teachers Association President Deb Pauley asked the Board from the audience whether her fellow employees would be allowed to speak, Jones said it was against Board policy. At that point, all but a few of the staff present left.
"We want everyone in the audience to know we are listening," Jones told the crowd before its exit. "We are listening to every word you have to say."
Board President John Pribonic declined to comment on the negotiation process.
Teachers Association spokesperson Mike Mekeal said June 25 he is unsure what path the union will take if a new contract is not in place by June 30.
He said the negotiations are going "nowhere."
Mekeal said a negotiation meeting is scheduled for June 30, though he is unsure whether a new contract will be in place by that date.
"Optimism's always there," he said. "In reality, I don't know."
Both unions have authorized their negotiation teams to issue 10-day strike notices to the district if necessary. Ohio law requires unions to issue such notices before going on strike.
Classified Employee Association representatives declined to comment.
The approximately 350-member Stow Teachers Association represents the district's certified staff, and the 260-member Classified Employees Association represents employees in positions such as cafeteria workers, janitors, aides and other non-certified positions.
Munroe Falls resident Pat Canterbury, a member of the Cuyahoga Falls Employee Association, praised the district's efforts in educating her children before telling the Board, "I ask you to negotiate a fair and equitable contract with the teachers. Please make the right decisions so other children in this district continue to have the same education that my children received."