Hundreds of Anchorage School District teachers packed into an Anchorage School Board meeting Monday -- then left the room in a show of solidarity amid an ongoing contract dispute.

For the second straight year, teachers are working without a new contract. Their previous contract expired on June 30, and teachers are temporarily working under its conditions.

"We are concerned about the current leadership and the lack of respect we are seeing for ourselves and our students," said teacher Bradley Kirr. "You have heard an enormous amount from educators over the past year. ASD is still refusing to add the academic freedom component in our contract. We need the board to take action."

The district's superintendent, Dr. Deena Bishop, said the teachers had her sympathy Monday night.

"I feel for all the teachers," Bishop said. "Contract negotiating is tough. It's stressful."

Many teachers at the meeting, however, said they feel administrators don't have their backs. Before contract mediation takes place again on Tuesday morning, educators continued to voice their displeasure with the current working conditions across the district.

"After hours of testimonies, our only responses from leadership are dismissive, disrespectful and de-value our expertise," said teacher Kadra Peterson. "After being intimidated by principals, we came to the school board for help and support. The response? In the next leadership meeting our superintendent, on tape, calls us 'cray-cray.' In addition, the chief of human resources states that these are (a) manufactured crisis. We as educators are not supported by leadership."

Peterson concluded her list of concerns with a veiled threat.

"If you want to know what it is like to run ASD without the backbone of educators, this is what is coming," Peterson said.

At that moment, the hundreds of educators in attendance walked out of the meeting, offering a hint of things to come if their needs in current contract negotiations are not met.

Last year, a new contract wasn't ratified until mid-February and then expired at the end of June. Teachers are hoping negotiations don't take that long again, but they are willing to hold out for what they want. A second round of mediation continues through Tuesday and Wednesday.

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