Strongsville teachers took a step toward a strike Friday by voting to authorize a walkout if a contract agreement isn't reached soon.
The Strongsville Education Association overwhelmingly passed a strike authorization vote Friday at its general membership meeting.
The action allows the association to issue a legal strike notice if it decides it is necessary.
Teachers hinted at a strike Feb. 7 when several hundred staged a protest at a School Board meeting, all wearing buttons that said "I don't want to strike, but I will."
A news release from the SEA said the vote was taken "because the Board of Education refuses to negotiate in good faith. The board continues to back their employees into a corner with tired negotiating tactics aimed solely at breaking the backs of the teacher’s union."
“We are running out of options,” SEA spokeswoman Christine Canning said in the news release. “Despite our contract expiring in June of 2012, we returned to the classroom in good faith in order to serve the students of this community.
Canning urged residents to lobby school board members for a settlement.
“By not reaching an agreement after over nine months of bargaining, the Board is now forcing us down a very dangerous path that could lead to a work stoppage in the next couple of weeks,” Canning said. “In order to prevent this work stoppage, community members should immediately call board members and urge them to settle a fair and equitable contract.”
A website launched by the SEA says a "fair and equitable contract" means:
• Enough time in the school day to plan lessons, meet one-on-one with students, grade papers, respond to parents' questions and handle other duties.
• Manageable class sizes.
• Keeping art, music and physical education classes intact at the elementary schools.
• The ability to attract and retain quality teachers.
• Respect as valued professionals.
The site also recounts seven negotiating sessions between July 9 and Jan. 29, noting "No Progress" after each.
On Jan. 30, SEA declared an impasse, meaning future sessions would include a mediator.
The SEA news release says a strike "may be the only option remaining to bring an end to the continued patter of outrageous, irresponsible, divisive and malicious behavior by the board."
“Today’s vote is a call to action to the board that the teachers of the district are invested in providing quality education to the children of our community,” Canning said. “But we have to protect our working conditions because they are ultimately our students learning conditions.”
SEA represents nearly 385 certified employees, including teachers, guidance counselors and special education interventionists in the Strongsville School District.