SPARTA - For almost a year and half the contract negotiations between the Sparta School District and its teachers have been at an impasse. Because of the stalemate the board is now asking the state to get involved. "The board is disappointed that the parties were not able to reach a contract settlement," said School Board President Ronald Bassani during the school board meeting of April 12. Even this suggestion has become a point of contention for the parties. Sparta Education Association President Melva Cummings urged the school board to reconsider going into mediation. "Come back to the bargaining table with a fair salary offer so we can settle this contract and get back to focusing our full attention on the number one goal of everyone in our association: to make Sparta schools the pride of New Jersey's public education system," said Cummings. She also said that the teachers are asking for a salary increase that matches the average increase offered by other districts in Sussex County. Bassani countered by saying that compromises have to be made by each party on the remaining issues in order to reach a settlement. "Negotiations involve a give and take from both sides," said Bassani adding that the board of education does not feel that the education association has an automatic entitlement to a certain percentage increase based on a county average. According to Bassani, the last official position of the union was a 15.25 percent salary increase spread over three years, which, he said, is not the county average. For now, the teachers are working with an expired contract.