An estimated 300 Strongsville teachers made an organized appearance at a School Board meeting Thursday night to send an apparent message of solidarity in the midst of contract talks.
None spoke during the meeting, and all of the teachers approached afterward refused to answer any questions.
The group gathered in the parking lot at Strongsville High School and waited until the board meeting had been under way for about five minutes, then entered in a long line.
They stood in the back of the meeting room for about 20 minutes, then filed out around 7:25 p.m., five minutes before the meeting ended.
The school board continued its regular business without interruption.
Tracy Linscott, president of the Strongsville Education Association, said in an email that the teachers attended the meeting "in order to demonstrate our frustration with the lack of progress in negotiations."
Superintendent John Krupinski said after the meeting the district has had about four meetings with the teachers' union since the school year started.
"I think the last meeting we had (Jan. 9) was productive," Krupinski said. "We had a very positive meeting."
More contract talks are slated for this month -- tentatively Jan. 28 -- and in February, he said.
The last round of teacher contract negotiations lasted nine months and ended with a two-year deal that included a salary freeze and no step pay increases for the 2011-12 school year.
That deal, finalized in March 2011, saved the district about $2 million, officials said. It also called for teachers to take on extra duties during the school day and to contribute more to their health insurance costs.
The contract was retroactive to Aug. 1, 2010 and expired June 30, 2012.
During those talks, teachers made at least one similar organized appearance at a meeting.
Krupinski said the district is now in a better financial situation in some ways, but is still facing fiscal uncertainty.
"We're certainly not rich," he said. "We do have deficits (projected) in outlying years."
The district made significant budget reductions in 2011, but voter approval of a 6-mill renewal levy in March 2012 thwarted deeper cuts to busing, athletics and other programs.
The district has been able to stop taking cash advances to meet its monthly expenses.
But Krupinski said revenue is still declining and the impact of the state's new funding formula is unknown.
He called contract negotiations "a process" and indicated the show of solidarity would not impact the administration's position on the talks in either direction.
"They (teachers) have every right to come to an open meeting," he said.