Newbury teachers are fighting back to keep their jobs as the district moves toward a territory transfer with the West Geauga School District.

In a letter dated Feb. 15, teachers threatened legal action unless a provision to begin cutting Newbury teachers is rescinded.

“This precondition is unlawful and, unless it is rescinded immediately, my clients intend to pursue litigation seeking injunctive and declaratory relief to prevent its implementation,” the letter states.

Youngstown attorney Ira Mirkin, who authored the letter on behalf of Newbury teachers, said the district cannot make staff cuts a precondition of the territory transfer and can only reduce staff once those teachers have officially become employees of the West Geauga School District.

West Geauga Superintendent Dr. Richard Markwardt said last week that the district will not change its approach. “I have no intention of rescinding any part of the resolution,” Dr. Markwardt said. He said he could not comment further because of the threat of legal action.

In his letter, Mr. Mirkin noted that West Geauga has conditioned the acceptance of the Newbury district through the “reduction of Newbury staff to a level necessary to accommodate the needs of students added to the West Geauga Local School District as a result of the territory transfer.”

The letter cites sections of the Ohio Revised Code, which it maintains support for the teachers’ position.

“If an entire school district or that part of a school district which comprises the territory in which a school is situated is transferred to any other district, or if a new school district is created, the teachers in such districts or schools employed on continuing contracts immediately prior to such transfer, or creation shall be subject to section 3311.83, 3319.17, or 3319.171 of the Revised Code, have continuing service status in the newly created district, or in the district to which the territory is transferred,” the letter stated, citing Ohio law, section 3319.18.

The letter stated the statute also applies to limited contract teachers and another section of law for non-teaching employees.

“West Geauga’s insistence on the lay-off of Newbury employees in anticipation of the consolidation violates the continued employment rights of those employees under the statute,” the letter states.

Mr. Mirkin wrote that the reduction of teachers would violate the “letter and spirit” of the law.

“Satisfying West Geauga’s precondition for consolidation is not a reason within R.C. 3319.17 for the suspension of contracts by Newbury,” the letter continued. “Such suspensions can only be implemented after the consolidation and only by West Geauga. This would conform to the procedures and purposes of R.C. 3319.17 by providing a larger pool of employees from whom to select the highest evaluated educators for the West Geauga students.”

Mr. Mirkin gave West Geauga officials until March 15 to respond.

The letter was copied to West Geauga and Newbury board members and administrations.

Joseph Koziol Jr. started his career in journalism in 1981. He joined the Solon Times in 1992 and covered the city of Solon for 10 years. An award winning reporter, Mr. Koziol has been covering Geauga County since 2012.

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