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JEFFERSONPARISH, La. - The Jefferson Federation of Teachers met with the Jefferson Parish School Board on Monday to start contract negotiations,following the controversy that erupted when the board shot down a contract extension with the teachers union.

Teachers said they are ready to work with the board to build contracts as soon as possible.

On June 6, teachers loudly vented their anger while holding protest signs at the end of a school board meeting. The board had voted five to three to let the current contract expire at the end of June, declining to extend it during contract negotiations.

About 200 positions are up for grabs in Jefferson Parish Schools, but an estimated 500 laid off this year are vying for those jobs at an internal job fair located in the John Ehret High School gymnasium.

Union leaders hope to have a new contract by the start of the school year.

Meanwhile, for those who do not get reassigned through these interviews, the school board says more positions will come available throughout the summer. They are encouraging job seekers to continuously check the board's website as they will be updating it every day as vacancies become available.

The contract had conflicts with new state education reforms, a board spokesmen said.

Even if the board had to make some changes, the contract was expected to be extended during the negotiations, teachers said.

'The fact of the matter is the board chose to take a different route, and they've pulled the rug right from under the teachers. So I think that the chaos in the Jefferson Parish school system continues,' said Meladie Munch of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers.

'Unfortunately, because of overspending and acquiring too many people over the years, this district is facing a $25 to 26 million dollar deficit annually. We can't live with that type of budget,' said Dr. James Meza, the acting superintendent.

On May 16, the school board voted to close seven schools as part of a money-saving and system re-ordering strategy. As a result, several employees lost their jobs.

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