Carrying homemade picket signs and shouting "support our teachers," Belgrade School District teachers and others protested at one of the city's busiest intersections Tuesday afternoon.

The event began shortly after 4:15 p.m. Tuesday (June 1) at Jackrabbit Lane and Main Street. By 4:30 p.m., perhaps 60 people were gathered. Organizers said they hoped to draw 400 people or more for the event.

Within an hour, it was all over as a rain storm arrived. Protesters ran from the site carrying picket signs as umbrellas.

The teachers are not on strike -- that is, they have not officially voted to walk off the job. The picketing is simply a protest over the lack of a contract, they said.

According to an e-mail sent to union members and others Friday by Belgrade High School English teacher Emily Hoogestraat, the protest is being organized at the request of MEA-MFT, the state teachers' union.

“The folks in Helena said they wanted to see us picket before the mediation meeting on Tuesday,” Hoogestraat wrote in the e-mail. “I know it’s short notice, but if our kids can rally behind something in just three days; surely we can do the same.”

She was referring to a student rally last week in support of Belgrade High social studies teacher Lisa Nesbitt, whom administrators recommended not receive a contract next year. Students and others showed up in force at a school board hearing May 22 and after 80 minutes of heartfelt testimony supporting Nesbitt, the board vote to deny Nesbitt a new contract failed, meaning she is retained.

At 6 p.m., Tuesday, negotiating teams from the district and teachers' union, along with a mediator, will meet for a third time in an effort to reach a contract agreement. The meeting will be held at the School District administration building, 312 N. Weaver Street.

See our companion story for more information on the negotiations.