San Mateo teachers, district aim for healing

With a tentative contract between teachers and the school district expected to be approved tonight, school board members hope it will begin the healing between teachers and district officials.

“I seriously hope the strife is behind us,” said Linda Lees Dwyer, a San Mateo Union High School District board member.

The two-year tentative deal contains no salary raise for teachers, but does restore medical benefits and allows binding arbitration, which allows teachers to file grievances over contract disputes. Grievances will be then ruled upon by an impartial legal arbiter. Teachers had not asked for a raise in salary.

The deal was reached in June after a long, arduous back-and-forth during negotiations. Board member Diane Vranes, a San Bruno teacher, said she believes the contract was “the best offer the district could have made because of the budget crisis.”

“We’ve had a wonderful relationship for a number of years,” she said. “Hopefully we can get back to that.”

Relations with teachers soured after district officials withdrew some medical benefits; contract negotiations then reached an impasse.

At one point, teachers submitted a vote of no-confidence in then-Superintendent Sam Johnson. Teachers association president Craig Childress said gaining binding arbitration was a key to finding common ground.

“The trust did wane, but we are in a state of rebuilding,” he said. “We felt that binding arbitration was a heavy component to rebuilding that trust.”

However, Childress added that relations might mend under the direction of interim superintendent David Miller, who was hired after Johnson retired in June. Although Miller opposes binding arbitration in general, he said he endorses the current contract on the table.

There is no timeline as to when a permanent superintendent will be selected, but Dwyer said Miller has been an asset to the district.

bfoley@examiner.com

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