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Columbus Board of Education and Columbus Education Association Building Substitutes Vote to Ratify First Collective Bargaining Agreement

August 1, 2023 -- The Columbus Board of Education and nearly 300 building substitutes employed by Columbus City Schools (CCS) have taken a significant step by approving a first-ever collective bargaining agreement for building substitutes. The two-year agreement, which adds building substitutes to the Columbus Education Association (CEA) bargaining unit, was ratified unanimously by building substitutes during a membership meeting held on July 17 and by the Board of Education during its August 1 business meeting.

This milestone concludes an organizing campaign to provide building substitutes with a collective voice. The Board of Education agreed to voluntarily recognize the new union in April 2023 after a supermajority of eligible building substitutes indicated their desire to be represented by CEA. Negotiations began shortly thereafter, and a conceptual agreement between the parties was reached in early July.

"Our building substitutes are pivotal to ensuring our students receive enriching educational experiences and are critical members of our school communities. The Board fully recognizes and supports the addition of building substitutes to the membership of CEA," said Columbus Board of Education President Jennifer Adair. "We are proud that this process was done in collaboration with our building substitutes and union leadership.  It reflects the Board's continued commitment to strengthening labor relationships and working collaboratively with union leadership and members to improve student outcomes."

Columbus City Schools took a proactive approach by creating the building substitute program to enhance the substitute experience and strengthen their role within the education system. The program was designed to help address the challenges posed by the nationwide teacher and substitute teacher shortage, ensuring consistent coverage for teacher absences and vacancies. This initiative demonstrates the District's commitment to fostering a supportive learning environment and empowering building substitutes to play a vital role in students' academic journeys.

“As a bargaining team member, I am so proud of this transformative agreement and its unanimous ratification,” said Debra Gwinn, a building substitute at Berwick Alternative PreK-8. “This process reaffirmed for all of us the power of collective bargaining to build a better workplace and community for our students, our families, and ourselves.”

“By voluntarily recognizing the new union and bargaining a first agreement in good faith with no delay, the Board of Education has set an example for employers throughout our city and state,” said CEA President John Coneglio. “This agreement sets a new standard by professionalizing this critical role in our schools.”

The Working Agreement, which will be executed as a Memorandum of Understanding and treated as part of the Master Agreement effective on the first teacher contract day of the 2023 - 2024 school year through the end of 2024 - 2025, includes several key provisions to enhance the working conditions and benefits for building substitutes. 

The Working Agreement for building substitutes includes:

  • Raises over $5 per hour, with additional pay for experience or full Ohio Department of Education licensure
  • Access to new benefits such as paid family leave
  • Paid professional development
  • Class size limits, which will help enhance the ability of building substitutes to provide individualized instruction
  • A Joint Committee will be formed to create a "Pathway to Licensure" program, supporting substitutes interested in obtaining Ohio Department of Education licensure and becoming regular classroom teachers within Columbus City Schools
  • Superintendent/CEO Dr. Angela Chapman expressed enthusiasm for the agreement. "This collaborative agreement reflects our unwavering commitment to support and empower all educators. Building substitutes are vital in cultivating a dynamic learning environment; together, we ensure the best education outcomes for our students."

The implementation of this agreement is a testament to the dedication of the Columbus Board of Education and the Columbus Education Association in striving for positive and constructive labor relations within the District.