OGDEN -- With some parental support during a rally at the Ogden School District's offices Thursday afternoon, 200 to 300 teachers showed their unhappiness at teaching a full school year with no signed contract.
Many wore red shirts and black ribbons to show unity and support for fellow teachers. Teachers waved signs stating, "Participate in Good Faith," "Support the fact finding" and "We teach cooperation not domination."
Music blaring in front of the school board and main administration offices included the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and Aretha Franklin's "R-E-S-P-E-C-T."
Speakers used words like "despicable" and "shameful" as they addressed the problems with negotiations between the school board and Ogden Education Association.
Teachers in the district are the only ones in the state with no signed contract for the school year that ended Thursday.
For a year, the school board and Ogden Education Association have been in negotiations to get a signed contract and have worked through a process by which three outside sources have offered advice on how to reach an agreement.
OEA President Doug Stephens spoke to the crowd along with Utah Education Association President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh, who said she visited with mixed emotions because of the current state of the teachers in the district.
The polarization in the district is not much different from what she has been seeing across the nation, she said, but added that Ogden district teachers have been hit especially hard by the school board's decision.
"What students are learning correlates directly with teachers' working conditions," Gallagher-Fishbaugh said to applause and cheers.
"I am tired of their (the board's) unwillingness to bargain."
The board has continually told the OEA it would negotiate in good faith, yet nothing has happened that way, she said.
"When did teachers become the enemy?"
The OEA said it would accept the fact-finding report given by the hearing officer.
Stephens said some of the things seemed to be in favor of the board, but the OEA was willing to accept it, even though the board will not accept parts of the fact-finding.
"The OEA is willing to accept the fact-finding, but we have to question the board when they said they still want to continue negotiations," Gallagher-Fishbaugh said.
Stephens relayed the process of the past week's events to the crowd, saying OEA leadership decided the morning of May 20 to have a rally and let some in the district know it would be happening.
The following Monday, an email went out from the board to the district's licensed employees about its plan to include a $920 stipend in June checks and to add one professional development day for teachers in August as part of the recommendations by a hearing officer appointed by the state Office of Education.
Stephens and many of the teachers feel the timing of the email was not coincidental.
District spokeswoman Donna Corby said the fact-finding report was released March 31.
The board met once in April and again May 19 in closed session, when a decision was made to pay the stipend to teachers, she said.
Corby also said classified and administrative employees already signed contracts this year.
Mount Ogden Junior High School teacher Mike Weaver attended the rally because he is frustrated by the way things have gone with contract negotiations this year.
The 20-year Ogden district educator has watched as fellow teachers leave quickly when they get the chance.
"I am very concerned. We are losing a lot of teachers," he said.
The sticking point for him is the lack of step increases being offered to teachers.
Steps are pay increases given to teachers for reaching longevity milestones.
Weaver said granting the steps is vital for teachers to stay current with pay grades across the state.
Step increases have not been awarded in the district for the last two years, and Weaver said he has heard they will probably not be granted next year.
Weaver said he is "absolutely shocked" the board did not accept the recommendations of the fact-finding report, even though the board said it would.
Stephens said the next thing on many teachers' minds is summer vacation. He expects to hear from the district about a contract for next year in the next couple of weeks.
School board member Shane Story stood among the teachers at the rally to listen to what was said, but did not want to comment.
Corby said the district's negotiating team, which has no school board members on it, was planning to meet with the OEA leadership this morning, but that has been postponed.
She did not attend the rally, but listened from an open window, as did many of her fellow district employees.
With teachers cheering, Stephens looked toward the open windows as he spoke:
"Come on, Ogden School District and administrators and Ogden School Board. You're the leaders. Step up to the plate, and let's get this thing done."