By Karen Wilkinson

Triplicate staff writer

Janet Parker is paying 54 percent more on power, 33 percent more to heat her home, 19 percent more on her home owner's insurance and 21 percent more to eat than this time last year.

The Bess Maxwell kindergarten teacher's bank interest rate dropped 62 percent, yet her salary's increased 6 percent in the last four years.

andquot;You can see that (my bills) are way more than 6 percent (more) and I would like to be compensated fairly,andquot; said Parker, who said she leads a frugal life and other teachers' bills have risen similarly.

More than 40 teachers and their children gathered at the Del Norte County School District Thursday night to eat pizza prior to the board meeting.

But more than dining together, teachers said the andquot;eat-inandquot; was a symbol of solidarity during crucial salary negotiations between the Del Norte Teachers Association and the school district.

andquot;In our current system we need to be valued not just by our students, but you, the district,andquot; said Del Norte High School teacher Alison Eckart, addressing the school board.

Both parties in December declared an impasse they couldn't reach an agreement so an outside mediator is scheduled to attempt to persuade them to Feb. 5. The last time an impasse was declared was 1997.

andquot;We're looking forward to mediation, which we think will help everyone understand the district's position, and not only the need for families to be solvent, but for our district to be solvent,andquot; said Superintendent Jan Moorehouse.

But if an agreement isn't reached, a fact-finding panel will be formed to conduct investigations, issue its findings and ultimately provide settlement recommendations.

Moorehouse said the district is stuck with meeting the needs of the teachers union and annually providing a budget to the state, which must show a sound three-year-projection.

andquot;We have to show salary (raises) don't impact us three years down the road,andquot; she said. andquot;It's very much looking into a crystal ball.andquot;

Moorehouse said offers are on the table that the district believes satisfies the needs of the teachers and state officials.

andquot;During mediation we think we can clarify our position so people know what's on the table and why it's what we can, at this point, justify to the state,andquot; she said.

She added that she's grateful to the district's qualified teachers and wants to continue their employment.

andquot;We look forward to coming to a resolution that will satisfy our need to be solvent and (the state's) need to be solvent,andquot; Moorehouse said.