It was just another normal, hectic, first day of school at Neshaminy High School, with students lingering at their lockers and and shuffling to homeroom before the 7:16 a.m. bell.

Except that most of the 220 teachers gathered at the flagpole in front of the building on Tuesday, many wearing Neshaminy Federation of Teachers shirts, and filed in together at 7 to start their fourth school year without a contract.

"This is our way of staying strong and representing the union," said James Kelly, a 9th grade social studies teacher starting his fifth year. "We're in this together."

It was all part of the union's new "work to contract" job action, taken because of what NFT President Louise Boyd has called the school board's "refusal to negotiate or to see compromise." The job action calls for the NFT membership of about 700 teachers and staffers to report to work 15 minutes before  the first bell,  leave 15 minutes after the last bell,  and to not take work home. Unlike a similar job action last  year, which upset students, parents and the community, teachers will participate in student orientations, Back-to-School nights and other functions for students and parents.

"It won't affect teaching," Kelly said. "We've come here to do our job. We'll do everything necessary to give kids a good education."

Not taking work home means teachers "need to be more creative with time management," said Kelly Tonia, who teaches  five special education science classes and supervises a lunch period. The remaining two periods – one hour 40 minutes – are filled with covering other teachers' classes, team meetings, paperwork, lesson planning and grading, she said.

"You can adjust, but you must use every minute of every day."

Tonia, starting  her 12th year, including seven at the high school, said the contract impasse has been difficult because there have been no raises in the base pay, for years of service or for educational credits. "Money is more tight."

The district's latest three-year offer includes a base salary of $42,553 to $96,883, depending on experience and college degrees. That provides a 1 percent annual pay raise over the expired contract.

The union's proposal calls for 3 percent raises each of the first two years and 3.5 percent in the third year, plus 1 percent retroactive raises for each of the past three years. The district cannot afford retroactive pay, school board President Richie Webb has said.

Neshaminy teachers have never contributed for health-care coverage -- a sticking point in the long and often acrimonious impasse. The union's latest offer calls for teachers to pay 8 percent of this year's premium for each of the next three years, while the district has offered three plans with contributions of 10 to 20 percent.