District, San Mateo union teachers gird for battle

Being a substitute teacher in San Mateo and Foster City could become very lucrative in the event of a school-district strike — although both sides in the ongoing salary battle say they’re fighting to avoid that scenario.

To ensure that school goes on in the event of a strike, the district will vote tonight on whether to grant Superintendent Pendery Clark emergency powers. Those powers include many basic district procedures, including the sale, lease or closure of district sites; approval of work contracts for substitutes; and the ability to issue conduct notices to any certified employees of the district.

If resolution between the San Mateo Elementary Teachers Association and the San Mateo-Foster City School District looks impossible, Assistant Superintendent Joan Rosas said the district will begin soliciting substitute teachers to fill the nearly 600 positions that would be vacated.

If teachers do strike — a matter that would be voted on aftera review of the report, set to be released Sept. 28 — their replacements would be paid $300 daily, approximately twice the standard rate for subs.

A strike can only be voted on by the teachers union after they review the fact-finding panel’s report on the situation, being prepared for release the week of Sept. 24.

The two sides presented their cases to the three-person panel on Sept. 13 and the panel reviewed those cases Sept. 17. Both sessions were all-day affairs.

“There are so many issues still unresolved, so that’s what took so long. They had to present each of those cases and the rationale and all the evidence for it,” SMETA President Carole Delgado said.

Among those concerns are teacher input on in-service development days and a health care plan that encompasses either the teachers entire family or one member of their choosing. Without a resolution, Delgado said a vote to strike is imminent.

“Certainly the teachers will take a financial loss if we strike, but this is about more than money; it’s about respect and being treated like professionals,” Delgado said. “We’re still hopeful that we can reach a negotiated settlement, but as the district is preparing for the worst, we have to as well.”

“We have to do this, but it’s being put in front of the board in case we get to that point, but it’s not our hope that we’re not going that direction,” Rosas said.

Most recent contract proposals

San Mateo Elementary Teachers Association

» 15.3% increase to salaries plus increases in 2008 and 2009

San Mateo-Foster City School District

» 5% retroactive to July 1, 2006

» 1.5% increase for the 2007-08 school year

» 1.25% in equity adjustments to certain salary levels

jgoldman@examiner.com

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