Striking District of Columbia teachers and negotiators for the city's school board met for three hours yesterday, but the union president said afterward that no progress was made toward ending the three-day-old strike.
"We really didn't get anything done," said Washington Teachers Union President William Simons. "There is nothing productive going on."
Simons said that neither the board nor the union made new proposals during the session. No future session was scheduled after the talks ended last night at 7:15.
Negotiators for the board and the union met briefly face-to-face for the first time in more than a month during yesterday's talks, Simons said.
Federal marshals arrived at the talks last night and served the union and the school board with summonses. The summonses ordered both sides to bring documents to a hearing at 9 a.m. today before D.C. Superior Court Judge Gladys Kessler. Neither the board nor the union would say what documents they were asked to bring to court.
Earlier yesterday, Kessler reprimanded lawyers for the union and the school board, saying their bargaining pace was "leisurely to say the least and, at best, was bordering on the irresponsible."
The negotiating session yesterday was the first since the strike began Tuesday morning. Attendance remained low again yesterday as roughly 56,000 of the school system's 113,000 students stayed away.
"I didn't go to school today, and I'm not going to school tomorrow," one McKinley High sophomore said yesterday as he walked hand in hand with his girlfriend in Northeast Washington. "Why should I?" he asked."All they do is put us in the auditorium."
The negotiations resumed as all parties to the dispute delicately maneuvered to strengthen their positions. The stage appeared to be set yesterday for Mayor Marion Barry to assume a more active -- but politically sensitive -- role in trying to resolve differences between the union and the school board.
Matthew Shannon, the mayor's special assistant for labor, who was an "observer" at yesterday's negotiations, told reporters that Barry had offered to mediate the strike if both sides agree. Barry himself met yesterday with Simons, and also spoke with School Superintendant Vincent E. Reed and school board members.
The union, which supported Barry in last year's election for mayor, would like the new mayor to take an active role and become a buffer between it and a school board that it considers stubbornly unreasonable. At the same time, the union is actively considering ways to increase pressure for a swift resolution by bringing more organized labor groups into strike activities, according to union sources.
The school board seems to have no single strategy for dealing with striking teachers. Most board members, in fact, say they expect the teachers to begin returning to schools in increasing numbers over the next few days.
Some school board members, however, have made it clear to Barry that they do not want him to act independently to end the strike because they fear that would supercede their authority as an elected school board.
Barry met with school board officials and Reed on Monday, the day before the strike began, but the meeting ended when some board members objected to Barry's presence.
"The mayor and I have a good working relationship," said school board member John Warren. "But Marion isn't on the school board any more and he isn't going to walk in and tell the board what to do." Barry is a former school board president.
The teachers' union, which represents 5,200 of the city's more than 6,000 public school teachers, narrowed its demands yesterday for calling off the strike, but its move was immediately rebuffed by school officials. The union said before the negotiating session that its members would return to work if the board agreed to reinstate its now-expired contract along with automatic payroll deductions -- or checkoff of union dues.
School board president Minnie S. Woodson rejected the offer, saying, "That's no change."
The negotiations, which had been broken off Monday night, resumed yesterday afternoon after Kessler's stern warning at a court hearing.
The judge scheduled the hearing for 9 a.m. today to determine whether union leaders should be held in contempt of court for striking in defiance of a previous court order. If found in contempt, the officials could face fines or imprisonment.
School officials, who have issued only sketchy statistics about student and teacher attendance since the strike started, estimated yesterday that 45 to 50 percent of the city's public school students attended school yesterday -- about the same number as Wednesday. If their estimates are accurate, student attendance would amount to between 50,850 and 56,500 of the 113,000 enrollment.
The union and the school administration continued to issue sharply conflicting estimates of the number of teachers participating in the strike. The union said 89 percent of the teachers stayed off their jobs yesterday, the same percentage as Wednesday. School officials asserted that the number of teachers reporting for work had climbed slightly, from 40 percent Wednesday to 43 percent yesterday. The number of teachers in the school system has been variously estimated as 6,100 to 6,600.
Most schools continued to rely on makeshift supervision by nonstriking teachers, administrators, substitute teachers and parent volunteers. "I think a lot of parents are keeping youngsters home because... they don't think any regular instruction is going on. We know it isn't going on in most places, but it is in some," Reed said.
With normal classes disrupted, students in the small Northeast Washington neighborhood surrounding McKinley High, Langley Junior High and Emory Elementary schools gathered on street corners, in playgrounds and vacant lots, around corner stores of stayed at home.
At Hart Junior High School in far Southeast Washington the principal, Carl Contee, noted that many students did not show up until lunch time. "The students in this area depend a lot on the lunches we serve," he said.
Interviews with six of the 10 current board members and Reed yesterday showed that the board has no single strategy for dealing with the striking teachers, other than to return to the contract talks and reach an agreement with the union on a new contract.
However, most members of the board said they expect teachers to return to schools in increasing numbers as the strike and its hardships continue.
Carol Schwartz, the vice president of the board, said she thinks teachers are being used by the union and when tempers become calm the teachers will begin to ignore the strike call in large numbers.
"Common sense leads us to believe that, in the days ahead, teachers who are not getting paid will feel the need to get back in the classroom," Schwartz said. "I think their conscience is starting to bother them about the kids they see on the streets and their pocketbooks are starting to bother them. Time is on our side."
Meanwhile, Reed said his staff is "actively considering" firing teachers who fail to show up to work.
"We're looking at that now," Reed said yesterday.
Sources close to the union said yesterday that since the strike began, there have been behind-the-scenes discussions involving teachers' union representatives and those of other labor organizations about a more intensive strike effort.
The general aim of such stepped up action, the sources said, would be to indicate that, beyond its ability to keep teachers out of the school, the union can make educational operations in the District more chaotic, and force a closing of the schools.
Teamsters Union members could -- and have said they would -- occasionally stop deliveries to the schools, the sources said. Unionized cafeteria workers are already refusing to take on supervisory or classroom chores in the understaffed schools, sources said. If the cafeteria workers decide to honor the teachers' picket lines, there would be no school lunches.
Members of the union representing school custodians, who have also declined classroom chores, could also refuse to show up for work. Even if the number of teachers staying out declined, one source said, the union could focus its picketing on elementary schools. This would have a severe impact on the day-care situation in a city with a large number of working mothers.