About 60 teachers in the Edison school district attended Wednesday's board meeting to express frustration with stalled contract negotiations and what they consider base pay that is too low.
The teachers all wore light green shirts bearing the words "Edison Teachers Association" on the front and "Achieving Excellence Year After Year" on the back.
Edison High School teacher Ryan Meredith spoke on behalf of the teachers, reading from a statement. Several times, a round of applause followed his statements.
"As a representative of the Edison Teachers Association, I am here tonight to convey the concerns, questions and frustrations of our 90-plus members to you, the Edison Local School Board," Meredith said. "This is a very emotional time for all involved."
Meredith said Edison teachers' base pay is ranked third from the bottom in the county. He added if the State Teachers Retirement System pickup is negated, "Edison's base pay will be dead last in the county.
"Because of the hard work and dedication of the members of the Edison Teachers Association and the parents and students of our community, the Edison Local School District has been rated Excellent and Excellent with Distinction for most of the last 10 years."
Meredith also spelled out the history of this year's negotiations between the school board and the Edison Teachers Association. The first session took place on April 27, the second on May 1 and the third on June 4. At the conclusion of the latter session, the parties agreed to call in a federal mediator.
The first mediation session took place on July 2 and it was the only such session, Meredith said.
"No further contact was made to come back to the table and a letter was sent to the Edison Teachers Association declaring 'ultimate impasse' on Aug. 28, 2012 and a salary step freeze was unilaterally implemented.
"Based on these facts, the Edison Teachers Association asks, 'Why?'"
Later in the meeting, long after the teachers left, board president Jodi Harris said while members of the body listened, they chose not to respond publicly because negotiations are ongoing.
After the meeting, superintendent Tom Roth told reporters he could not comment, other than to say the two sides have reached an "ultimate impasse."
The teachers who attended had more questions.
"Excellent teachers, giving their all every day for the Edison community, already being paid lower than most of their colleagues in the county are now expected to have their salaries frozen and further decimated. Why?
"After three regular negotiations sessions and one mediation session, the Edison Teachers Association is supposed to believe that the board and its representatives have done all they can to bargain in good faith. Why didn't the board meet with the association's negotiation team and the federal mediator and sit across the table from us and declare ultimate impasse?"
Meredith said that instead, teachers received a letter about the impasse.
"Why?" he asked.
Former board member Don Gurney asked the board to "stand up for what's right, not politically correct."
The school district is asking voters to approve a five-year, 3.5-mill additional levy on Nov. 6.
Gurney asked district treasurer Jude Hammond how much that levy would raise if voters pass it.
Hammond said $816,000.
That will only get the district through a year, at best, Gurney said.
"You're not even raising enough money to negotiate in good faith," he said. "Come together, put away your Tea Party attitude and do your job for the kids."
A round of applause followed that remark.
Meredith asked the board to re-instate the salary steps and return to the bargaining table, a request which was met with further applause from the teachers.
In related business, Hammond told the board he received 44 step grievances from the teachers' union. Board members decided to hold a special board meeting at 4 p.m. Nov. 9 to listen to those grievances. The meeting will most likely take place in executive session.