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Akron Board of Education prepares for potential teachers strike

 Akron Public Schools headquarters in Downtown Akron.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Akron Public Schools headquarters in Downtown Akron.

The Akron Board of Education is preparing the school district for a potential teachers strike, including a resolution to potentially continue classwork online in the event of a strike.

The Board approved several resolutions after a lengthy executive session Thursday, including to grant the Superintendent the authority to: hire a "crisis response firm"; seek out additional substitute teachers; and continue school remotely if it’s deemed necessary. This all in the case of the Akron Education Association goes on strike if a deal can’t be struck before January 9; that’s 10 days after the union filed a strike notice (which it filed Thursday.)

According to the resolutions, the district, in the event of a strike, could close its buildings to the general public while hiring staff and buying equipment as necessary to continue operations. The Board wrote that it’s “important to the educational and social and emotional wellbeing of the students in the Akron City School District that education continue through on-line instruction should the Akron Education Association strike.”

The crisis response firm the district would hire is Huffmaster Crisis Response LLC. The firm has been contracted by other school districts in Ohio that faced teachers’ strikes in recent years, and will be used to provide “security and personnel services” in the event of a work stoppage.

“The Board deems it may be necessary and appropriate to supplement its safety and security forces by retaining a firm to supplement its existing safety and security personnel with the services of a firm experienced in providing security to school personnel and property in the event there is any school employee work stoppages,” the resolution reads.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown had sent a letter of concern to the Niles City School District after they hired the same company earlier this year to contend with a potential strike there.

“…We find it troubling that the Board decided to approve a contract with Huffmaster Crisis Response – time and resources that could otherwise be spent investing in students, educators, and school facilities,” Brown said at the time.

The teachers’ union and school administration have not seen eye-to-eye on issues like teacher pay, school security and safety and more, with relations deteriorating seriously in recent months.

The Akron Education Associationyesterday alleged the school administration had spent money on extravagant travels and dinners, and that the school district’s superintendent did not live within the city limits, but rather rented a hotel room near the central office.

Mark Williamson, Akron Public Schools director of marketing and communication, said in a statement Friday that "most of the claims… if not all” in the press release from the teachers union that contained those allegations were “patently incorrect.”

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.