ADAMS TWP — In the spring, it was Mars Area School District teachers who lined the roads with signs supporting students stuck at home during the pandemic.
On Friday, it was parents holding signs supporting teachers.
A dozen or more Mars Area parents gathered around 2 p.m. Friday outside the district administration building to generate awareness about current working conditions within the district.
“This is not about the pandemic,” said Julia Konitzky, who has three children in the district. “The teachers don't have a contract.”
District leaders and parents have recently addressed the fact that Mars Area faculty has now been working more than 130 days without a new contract.
So far this year, there's been one negotiation session between Mars Area Education Association (MAEA) and administration due to two sessions being canceled by the district.
The district hasn't proposed a new contract since the beginning of the calendar year, according to MAEA.
On Nov. 9, MAEA voted to authorize a strike if its negotiation team felt one was needed.
Although there are no additional details on a possible strike at this time, some district parents are eager to show their support for the teachers. That's what led to a last-minute plan to picket along Route 228 as students left school.
“Our teachers are what keep this district going,” said Jill Roda, whose three children have been attending school in-person this year. “They're our everyday heroes.”
The parents who gathered Friday mentioned several points of concern. Recent staff turnover, administrative decisions to not run certain courses, budget shortfalls and low morale were high on the list.
Several parents also expressed their concerns that the district hasn't been eager to compensate teachers for working double duty this year: Mars Area's learning module this year includes both in-person teaching and livestream interactive instruction for teachers.
“This is about showing support for the teachers,” Konitzky said. “(We're) just trying to do what's best for our kids.”
Heather Raybold, who has two children enrolled in Mars Area, said she's particularly disappointed in the district's attitude since it recently emphasized joining a nonprofit positivity campaign at the elementary level.
“We are (#)BetheKindKid,” Raybold said. “(Teachers) want the respect.”
In general, the sign-wielding parents said they're hoping to generate interest among district families and get the community involved. In the meantime, they plan to attend school board meetings as often as possible.
“Parents in the community want transparency,” Konitzky said. “When (administrators) disrespect our teachers, they don't respect our kids.”