Danbury Local Schools teachers dusted off the chalkboards Monday for the first day of school, despite not reaching a contract agreement.
Superintendent Martin Fanning said the Danbury Board of Education could not come to agreement with the Danbury Educators Association, despite hiring a federal mediator Aug. 15.
"For our district, it is very unusual," said Joe Fetzer, teachers union spokesman, athletics director and teacher. "I know since at least 1975, we've not even had contract negotiations that went to a federal mediator to try to help solve the situation until the last contract three years ago."
Fanning said the board is still in mediation with the teachers union, which represents 49 teachers throughout the district.
The union has been in negotiations with the board since April, but teachers have been working without a contract since the previous one expired July 31. The dispute revolves around teacher salary and health insurance.
"You continue to work under your old contract until a new contract is reached," Fanning said. "That's pretty normal around the state."
Last week junior high and elementary school teachers did not attend their respective orientations. On Thursday several car windows in the Danbury High School parking lots had displays reading "DEA Supports Students School Community."
Fetzer said teachers did not attend the orientations because they were not contracted duties. The teachers did meet with parents in the school parking lot.
"We do numerous activities outside of our contracted schedule," Fetzer said. "But in order to show our displeasure with not having a contract, we decided not to attend those events."
Last week the teachers attended two works days for all employees before school started, Fanning said.
Parents wondering about their children's education should not worry, Fetzer said.
"Our teaching staff is concerned number one about our kids;" he said, "therefore, we are certainly going through everything in our contracted work day to make sure the education of those children is not affected at all by this situation."
If the union does strike, it would have to give the school a 10-day notice.
"I don't want to even contemplate that," Fanning said. "We have a good staff. We want to be fair to staff members, but also be accountable to our community as we want to be good stewards of our taxpayers' dollars."
Fetzer said there are no planned dates for future negotiations.
"The D.E.A. would like to return to the table and negotiate," Fetzer said.
The Danbury Association of Non-certified Employees did reach a verbal agreement Tuesday, Fanning said.
The non-teachers union represents bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers and teacher's aides.