The campaigning was fast and furious and eventually the Fairfax County School Board voted the way the teachers wanted: to keep the short elementary school day on Mondays.
Leaders of the largest teachers union, which had rallied as many as 600 people before the cliffhanger vote, jubilantly gathered in President Maureen Daniels's recreational vehicle, popped open champagne and toasted their success at swinging key votes. In the days to come, the union and its smaller rival would flood teachers' mailboxes with fliers touting their victory.
But in reality, did the unions sway the board's Nov. 15 vote? No, according to most of those involved.
The board voted 5 to 5 on Superintendent Robert R. Spillane's $5.9 million plan to extend Mondays to the same 6 1/2-hour day as the rest of the week, meaning the motion failed for lack of a majority.
Only one of the five dissenters -- Letty A. Fleetwood (Providence), the unions' most consistent supporter -- based her vote primarily on the concern about Monday afternoon planning time raised by the teachers. The four others, Anthony T. Lane (Lee), Joanne T. Field (Dranesville), Nathanial Choate (At Large) and Robert E. Frye (At Large), generally cited the plan's cost in tight fiscal times.
"Maybe with one board member the unions played a big role," said School Board Chairman Kohann H. Whitney (Centreville), who championed the plan because it would add instructional time for the county's 72,000 elementary students.
"The board members who voted against it all cited financial concerns," she added. "There was not much criticism of the quality of the proposal and what it would do for children. It's only a matter of time before this comes back again" for another vote.
Jane Strauss, president of the County Council of PTAs, attributed the split vote to a combination of factors.
"I think the tie vote reflected the wrestling that went on in the rest of the community," she said. "Adding to instructional time is a very tempting thing and if there were more money available in the budget, I think we could've done it."
Between them, the 6,900-member Fairfax Education Association and 1,500-member Fairfax County Federation of Teachers spent more than $8,000 for buttons, hats, fliers, postcards, placards and newspaper ads to campaign against the plan.
The two unions are traditionally fierce rivals, and during the weeks leading to the vote, they competed to claim the mantle of most-opposed to Spillane's Monday plan, taking time out to bash each other along the way.
In newsletters sent after the vote, both claimed credit, solicited for new members and took more shots at the other union. The education association sent out three fliers, headlining one, "You Did It Right!" and another, "FEA Led The Fight!" while the teachers federation sent one saying, "YOU made the difference."
However, some School Board members said neither union had much influence with a board that just a year earlier unanimously supported the concept of eliminating early closings in the face of equally vociferous union opposition.
Where the teachers may have had more pull was with the Board of Supervisors, which appoints the School Board and faces reelection next year. The FEA in particular lobbied all nine supervisors to pressure their appointees to vote against the plan; most supervisors did so, though they cited lack of money, not teacher concerns.
"The union people were going around to the supervisors and saying, 'We want this defeated. You people come up for election next year. If you support this, we won't support you,' " said School Board member Anthony Cardinale (Springfield), who voted yes.
The FEA was one of the largest financial contributors to Board of Supervisors Chairman Audrey Moore (D) in 1987, but their relationship has been strained because of her attempts to cut the school budget. Moore strongly pressured her two appointees, Choate and Frye, to vote against the Monday plan, but she cited finances as the reason for her opposition.
Supervisor Thomas M. Davis III (R-Mason), who plans to challenge Moore and who could pick up the FEA endorsement, likewise leaned on his appointee, Carla M. Yock (Mason), but she defied him and voted yes.
Afterward, Cardinale said, union leaders "were running around trying to drum up business and saying, 'See? We turned this around,' and trying to take a lot of credit for it."
In a rare moment of harmony, both unions stand by that and insist they deserve that credit.
"I don't think there's any question we influenced the vote," said the education association's Daniels. "They listened to us."
"We had a tremendous role," agreed Mark Glofka, vice president of the teachers federation. "We educated the parents. We sent postcards to the School Board members. We put a lot into it."