Nov 27, 2023 - News

Cleveland schools CEO asked teachers to delay contract negotiations

Black man in profile standing on dais delivering remarks at lectern

Warren Morgan delivers his inaugural State of the Schools address at the City Club this month. Photo: CMSD

Cleveland schools CEO Warren Morgan, fresh off his inaugural State of the Schools, could be facing his first contract dispute with teachers.

Driving the news: Cleveland Teachers Union (CTU) president Shari Obrenski wrote in a Nov. 17 email to members that was shared with Axios that Morgan urged her to seek a one-year contract extension instead of negotiating a new three-year contract, in light of the district's tenuous financial position.

Context: The Cleveland Metropolitan School District's (CMSD) latest five-year forecast predicts that it could be in the red as early as the end of the 2024-2025 school year, due in part to the expiration of pandemic-era federal relief funding.

Threat level: CTU's three-year contract runs through June 30, 2024. Negotiations on the next contract generally start in January of an expiration year (i.e. in a little over a month).

What they're saying: Obrenski told her membership that she met with Morgan on Nov. 7, and that Morgan reiterated the district's precarious finances and suggested returning to the negotiating table in a year.

  • "I explained to him that I have never gone to the table with the district when they have said they have money," she wrote. "The district always claims to be broke, so that isn't anything new."
  • Per Obrenski, Morgan brought up the optics of a contract dispute in the event the district seeks a levy renewal.

Flashback: The district's most recent levy was passed by Cleveland voters in 2020 and was meant to cover operating expenses for 10 years.

What happened: Obrenski rejected Morgan's suggestion and contacted CTU's attorneys to file a notice to negotiate.

The other side: A CMSD spokesperson confirmed to Axios that Obrenski's characterization of her meeting with Morgan was accurate, and said the district had no additional comment.

The bottom line: Obrenski said teachers had numerous issues — safety and security, workload, compensation, and more — that they expect to address at the negotiating table.

  • "This can't wait another year until the district decides that they have money, or that they are finally prepared to tackle tough issues. We have waited long enough and the time is now."
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