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Cleveland school board OKs new Teachers contract, agrees to sell HQ

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland school board Tuesday night approved a groundbreaking contract with its teachers, while also picking a new home for district offices.

The board also approved a plan to set aside money from the sale of its old East Sixth Street headquarters for a downtown school.

The new three-year teacher contract, which still needs approval from teachers later this month, gives the district's teachers, counselors and librarians a 4 percent raise for next school year and cash bonuses of $1,500 the year after.

But it also goes well beyond a standard teacher contract by spelling out details of many structural changes unique in Ohio to Cleveland that Mayor Frank Jackson and district chief Eric Gordon had sought, and won, from the state legislature last year with the cooperation of the Cleveland Teachers Union.

Those include a new way of giving future raises based on teacher performance and specialized qualifications, instead of the traditional pay scale based on years of service and college degrees or courses.

And the contract overhauls how teacher layoffs and recalls are handled, with performance and qualifications taking precedence over seniority.

Gordon said that the district can afford the pay raises called for in the contract. The district estimates it will cost $14 million more over the three-years of the contract.

The board adopted the contract 9-0 with no public comment after meeting behind closed doors for about an hour.

Earlier, the school board voted 6-2 to sign a 10-year lease to move administrative offices into the former Eaton Corp. headquarters at 1111 Superior Ave. That's just a few blocks from its existing 82-year-old headquarters on East Sixth Street that the board sold last month to the Drury hotel chain for $4.66 million.

According to the term sheet for the district's lease, the district would occupy 88,575 square feet on five floors, about 15 percent of the building. The lease, including parking fees, would cost more than $15 million over the 10 years.

Board members Patricia Crutchfield and Lisa Thomas voted against the move. Crutchfield said that the district could use one of its existing buildings without paying for a lease.

The board also adopted a proposal to use money from that sale of the district's headquarters to either create a new downtown school or expand one of the district's two existing downtown schools, SuccessTech Academy or the Campus International School.

That measure passed 8-1, with Crutchfield the only dissenting vote.

Board member Eric Wobser has said since introducing that plan last month that he wanted to maintain the district's presence downtown and that a downtown school would serve a growing downtown population as well as being accessible to both the east and west sides of the city.

Some board members, after hearing complaints from the public that Wobser's plan unfairly benefits downtown interests at the expense of neighborhoods, held off voting on the plan late last month.