YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — After contract negotiations between Youngstown City Schools and the Youngstown Education Association broke down Friday, the union released a statement saying it plans to issue a strike notice.

Both sides met at East High School to try and hammer out a new contract agreement between the school district and union members. Members of the YEA gathered outside dressed in red to show solidarity.

Union spokesperson Jim Courim was initially optimistic that they could get a deal done.

“We’re just here to support our team as they go in, but we really want to make sure that we get something that is best for the community, the students and the staff because we want to make sure that we are there on Aug. 23 for our students because our students have the greatest potential in the world,” Courim said.

However, the union released the following statement Friday following the meeting:

We are disappointed that talks broke down with YCSD this evening. We will be requesting fact finding and we are going to issue a strike notice.

Youngstown City Schools public relations director Stacy Quinones released the following statement, which can be read in full:

On Friday, the Youngstown City School District completed three consecutive full days of collective bargaining with the school teachers union. The three days of bargaining were assisted by a federal mediator appointed by the FMCS. Although some major hurdles were agreed to at the table, including health insurance provisions including insurance premiums, and coverage amounts, the parties remain far apart on wages. 

Although the parties attempted a creative approach with a short one-year contract, the disparity in the amount of the raise that both sides sought was, in the District’s eyes, the biggest hurdle. The District offered its full budgeted amount at the bargaining table on the final day, which would still continue deficit spending. However, the union’s final demand was more than 2.5 times that amount. The management team for the school district pointed to the state average and the Mahoning Valley average raises as its guideposts. This offer was still not enough to keep the teachers at the bargaining table.  

On other items, outside of seeking to reflect in the contract the actual amount of student-teacher contact time that has been in effect over the last five years, the school district sought no other changes to the current contract. 

The District remained willing to continue those talks and offered two additional dates with the assistance of the FMCS mediator. The District desired to keep working on an agreement. The District believes that the strike notice is premature as state law next requires the parties to engage with a third-party neutral known as a fact finder. The fact finder will listen to the final offers of both parties and make a neutral assessment for both sides to consider. That neutral evaluation process called fact-finding has to begin and conclude before a strike would be allowed. The District does not believe that the issues are insurmountable but is concerned with the large gap in the raises offered by the District versus the raises sought by the union.

Teachers are supposed to report to work on Aug. 15, and classes for Youngstown city schools are scheduled to begin on Aug. 23.