A standing-room-only crowd filled the Westerville Central High School commons Monday night as teachers complained to the school board about the lack of a new contract.

A standing-room-only crowd filled the Westerville Central High School commons Monday night as teachers complained to the school board about the lack of a new contract.

Hundreds of teachers, all dressed in black, cheered as one after another criticized the board for not having reached an agreement with the Westerville Education Association (WEA).

The district has not had a contract agreement with the WEA, which represents the district's 1,026 teachers, since the last contract expired Aug. 31. Contracts with the district's three other unions expired June 30.

Westerville North High School teacher Tom Peet, speaking on behalf of the WEA, said the district is failing to recognize the dedication of the teachers, who he said have "bailed out" the district time and time again, by taking a 0-percent base-pay increase in 2009 and a 1-percent increase in 2006, donating time and money to the 2009 levy campaign and by spending their own money and extra time in their classrooms.

He said something is clearly wrong when the district has not met agreements with all four of its bargaining units.

"You have no contract with your hardworking custodians. You have no contract with your hardworking bus drivers. You have no contract with your hardworking secretaries. You have no contract with your hardworking teachers," he said. "There is only one common denominator, and that is you, the Westerville Board of Education."

Of the 25 people who commented during the meeting, the vast majority of whom were teachers, only Westerville resident Jo Ruhl spoke against the WEA and asked the board to take a conservative stance on raises.

With the federal government declaring no increase in the cost of living this year and offering no increase in Social Security benefits, Ruhl said teachers should be offered a 1-percent increase in base pay, be asked to take on an increased share of their benefits and see step increases eliminated.

Without such measures, she said, the district will continue to be back before voters on a regular basis to ask residents to raise taxes.

"This is just not sustainable, and it's not necessary. The last levy barely passed," Ruhl said.

For more on this story, see the Sept. 30 edition of ThisWeek Westerville.