A week after United Federation of Teachers officials announced that they would consider a strike, union leaders and representatives of the mayor's office met formally yesterday for only the second time since last October.
After officially resuming negotiations on Monday, the talks continued for six hours yesterday. The two sides will meet again today in an attempt to reach a contract settlement for New York City teachers before the early October deadline.
Attempts to meet a compromise were met by union leaders with cautious optimism in the face of growing frustration from teachers, students, and parents.
Although he could not talk about details of Thursday's meeting, UFT press secretary Stuart Marques said that the consistency of meetings was a step in the right direction.
"We met for six hours today and will meet tomorrow. That indicates something," he said.
The negotiations came after waves of skepticism followed Monday's initial full committee meeting.
"We need a couple of days for [Randi Weingarten, UFT president] to figure out whether or not [the city representatives] are serious," Marques said
Weingarten's reservations stem from a discrepancy between the Mayor's statement that he would accept the recommendations regarding the contracts of an independent fact-finding panel, and the UFT's perception that the mayor's negotiating committee was deviating from those findings.
"This is another delaying tactic to make it look like they want a deal, when their actions say prove otherwise," said Weingarten in a prepared statement after Monday's full committee meeting.
Monday's meeting focused on the number of days a teacher could be asked to serve as a substitute teacher without extra pay, and on how time added to the school day may be used.
The mayor's office did not return phone calls yesterday.
Local teachers remained frustrated, despite yesterday's negotiations.
"All we're asking is a decent wage and working conditions ... Apparently the mayor has no respect for teachers," said Suzette Freedman, a third grade teacher at P.S. 75, where education chancellor Joel Klein was booed by teachers as he walked into a meeting on Tuesday.
When asked about the possibility of a strike, Freedman said she understood the problem with educating students while striking, "but at the same time, you don't want to be shit on," she added.
"I used to work in a public school, and was part of the union for eight years. I only started working here this year, precisely because the situation with the public schools is pretty bad," said Anday Conner, a sixth grade teacher at Kipp Star College Preparatory Middle School, a charter school on 123rd St.
Parents shared frustration about the lack of contracts for teachers.
"I think it's absurd," said Patricia Fondrie, the mother of three children in public schools. "They deserve better benefits and better pay."
"Teachers are always underpaid. They are always having to do without enough supplies, always spending their own money," said Robert Hill, a father of a first grader at P.S. 125. "If we are interested in educating our children, we should put our money where our mouth is."
On Sept. 20, the UFT announced that they would consider striking or officially endorsing Fernando Ferrer-Bloomberg's rival-in the November mayoral race. City teachers' contracts expired on May 30, 2003.
Florence Lui and Yelena Shuster contributed to this article.