What are the teachers in Austintown fighting for through their Union?
#1 – Improved Communication in the District
- Our District needs to respect the Voice of Professionals.
- Teachers in Austintown have a unique and informed perspective on how changes to educational policy affect our most valuable commodity – your children. Decisions must be made that positively impact the educational environment of our schools.
- Our District needs to respect the Voice of the Community.
- Where’s Freddie?
- Our District has spent money on a marketing firm from Toledo to attract students to our district. They decided that the AF logo is our official marketing symbol, not our cherished Freddie the Falcon.
#2 – Fair Wages that Attract and Retain Quality Teachers
- Currently, Austintown teachers are virtually the lowest paid in Mahoning County, after several years of 0% increases.
- This will not allow the district to compete with other, higher-paying school systems as we seek the best and brightest new educators.
- We have already lost a number of prospective hires who took jobs paying considerably more than our starting salary.
- 50% of all teachers seek different employment within the first 5 years. We want to keep those excellent educators who have been called to the profession and who truly care about our students.
#3 – Improved Open Enrollment Policies
- While this is a point that we cannot negotiate as part of our contact, we certainly share your concern and would like to partner with parents in a dialogue about how to lessen the many concerns with the current policy.
- Austintown teachers understand that Open Enrollment has provided needed funds for the District; however, we need to institute more specific controls, ensuring student class size numbers do not climb too high, sacrificing quality education.
How can you help?
The members of the Austintown Education Association want to inform you about our mission for the students of this district. We know, as educators, how important it is to have the trust of the parents and of the community. Our current actions, which are a Union stance, are designed to make sure that Austintown continues the tradition of excellence that has been a hallmark of our district for generations. For that to happen, we now stand united, asking the Board of Education to do what is fair to all involved. First and foremost, we want the public to understand we do not want to strike. In fact, we have done everything in our power over the past 7 months to ensure that it does not come to that point. However, we have just voted to authorize our Bargaining Team to serve a strike notice, if need be. Again, if this happens, it is not because it is our wish; it is because we see no other way to maintain and gain ground in our fight for continued educational excellence. We are now asking for your help for your community and to take action as well, as parents, grandparents, and as concerned community members; please contact your Board of Education, asking them to do what is best for our kids and settle this contract fairly. Thank you.
“‘So, has anything changed?’ This is a question I overheard during the “work to rule” action taken by our union. I’m not so sure how to answer that question.
It certainly seems at times as though our superintendent is unaffected by our decision to work our exact hours. He suggests that our doing so is no big deal. He suggests that we have somehow lowered our status by only working our contracted hours. “If they want to act like professionals, we will treat them like professionals. If they want to act like hourly workers then we will treat them like hourly workers,” he was quoted when asked about our decision. I have not seen central office change much to be honest during our time on “work to rule”. So maybe nothing has changed. Maybe.
But when I hear our superintendent being quoted like the one above, I feel bothered. You see, we educate the future professionals and hourly workers. We understand that each of our students have potential in many areas of life. We care for and encourage each one. We realized during this time how much extra time and effort we truly do put in because we all feel a void when we are restricted to only our contracted hours. We realize that when those around us lack an appreciation for who educators are and what they try to accomplish daily, then we must at the very least support each other. This thing we call education is hard. It is hard because life can be hard and we are intertwined with so many lives. We feel for the girl with the sad eyes. We rejoice with the smiling faces of success no matter how big or small. We reach out with our talents and our passion for this vocation we feel called to do. That passion rests in each of us. So when communication is lacking and our professional opinions go untapped, we feel frustrated. When our daily work gets harder we dig in. We demand the best of ourselves and our students. And so we deserve central office’s best as well. There are areas that we feel are important that need addressed in order to fortify our schools. These areas seem to be ignored.
Our numbers are great and our time is taken up with the daily task of educating a population of global learners that have many different needs. So we lose touch with each other. It has not been easy nor comfortable “working to rule”. But the mountains of negativity and ignorance toward us the past several years requires hardy souls if we are to forge a pathway towards better schools. And so year after year we sent a select few in to negotiate what is best for our schools. Yet each time they came back being offered what central office felt was the best business deal. Our concerns fell on deaf ears. And just as if we had a student in our room with such a deficit, we have tried numerous approaches to share our concerns. This led us to our most recent action. A few educators became many. A cause for fair contracts and a desire for educationally sound decisions brought us closer. We realized that while each of us have our own unique abilities and talents in this field we are bound by the desire to see this profession flourish so that our most precious resource, our students, can be afforded the best Austintown has to offer. We realize that maybe we do not have to accept silently the conditions and contracts forged out of a victory for lawyers’ abilities to manipulate. Instead, we found our voice. While it may not be a polished voice trained in ways to deceive, it is a voice of concern. We realized that we are not against the superintendent or the board of education, but instead we are simply for educators and education. I am proud to be a part this group called educators. This career is part of the very fabric of our lives. And we share this experience – together.
So what has this changed? Maybe we changed ourselves just a bit. We realize how we all need to improve our communication. We realized that our differences are required to meet the needs of our children. We realize that sometimes change is good, yet holding on to those things that work is not always bad. We realize that standing up for education in the face of criticism from all directions does not mean we should not model faith, determination and passion for those whom we care about.”
“The job of a teacher is to excite in the young a boundless sense of curiosity about life, so that the growing child shall come to apprehend it with an excitement tempered by awe and wonder.” John Garrett
Teaching is not just a “job.” For the 317 educators in the Austintown Local School District, it is a passion that drives each of us as we offer the children of Austintown the best education that we can. This is why we go above and beyond our classrooms in the form of holiday programs, math and literacy nights, book clubs, Bible studies, Socrates Cafe, English Festival, chess club…the list could go on and on. We don’t do these things for money, we do them because we care about the students and we want to offer them the absolute best. Through the years, this has become more and more of a challenge, one that we have continued to embrace and meet with excellence.
After several months of working under an expired contract, we find ourselves having to make some difficult sacrifices. Please know that we are taking a stand and implementing Work-to-Rule at this point for your children. Our Union has been trying to improve the educational environment in Austintown for a very long time; an effort that has not been heard to date. We are now trying to make a more public comment so that community members identify with our stand. We are trying to get the best in education for your kids. This includes improving campus-wide communication, securing wages that will attract and retain the best teachers for your children, and addressing concerns about class size and safety of the children.