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Columbus school board stands behind its 'final' contract offer to teachers

Columbus Education Association members rally outside of school board headquarters July 27, 2022.
Matthew Rand
Columbus Education Association members rally outside of school board headquarters July 27, 2022.

Columbus Board of Education members are defending what they call their final contract offer in their ongoing labor dispute with the Columbus teachers’ union.

Speaking at a Tuesday evening meeting, Board President Jennifer Adair said the two sides met 19 times over a four-month period before the board presented the union with their “final offer” last week.

“We have offered a contract that demonstrates our appreciation and respect for our teachers and their commitment to our students, family, and our district,” Adair said as she read a statement to open the public portion of the Tuesday meeting.

Adair maintains a final offer is a standard of the negotiation process.

“The offer we provided was fair, comprehensive, and respectful of members of CEA,” Adair said.

Adair’s comment stand in stark contrast to those from Columbus Education Association President John Coneglio, who said last week that the final offer was an effort to dictate terms of a contract instead of negotiating.

“We will not accept take-in-or-leave-it bargaining,” Coneglio said in a video posted to Facebook the night of the board's final contract offer.

Adair’s Tuesday comments came ahead of the Columbus Education Association’s planned vote on Thursday to decide if they’ll give 10 days’ notice of an intent to strike. Any strike would likely begin on August 24, the first day of the upcoming school year and the day after the union’s current contract expires.

Union leaders have criticized the district on several fronts, including class sizes, case loads for school nurses and psychologists, and the condition of HVAC systems in older buildings.

Adair pushed back against many of those claims Tuesday. She says the average class size in the district is 22 students, that more nurses are being hired, and that the district is using federal pandemic relief money to update HVAC systems.