Teachers union gives school district the cold shoulder

A teachers union rejected the final offer in the ongoing negotiation between San Mateo and Foster City teachers and district leaders last week, and now both sides must present their arguments to a three-member fact-finding panel.

On June 29, the San Mateo-FosterCity School District offered a salary plan including a 5 percent increase retroactive to July 1, 2006, a 1.5 percent hike this coming school year and 1.25 percent in adjustments for specific teacher groups the district has had a hard time recruiting and retaining.

The district has been without a current, approved contract since July 2006, when the last contract ended. The lack of a contract and the lower pay scale compared with other surrounding districts have been cited as a reason that the school district has lost approximately 175 teachers in the last two years.

The San Mateo Elementary Teachers’ Association — which represents teachers from the district’s 16 elementary schools and four middle schools, teaching more than 10,000 students — has asked for a 15.3 percent increase in salaries. Association President Carole Delgado and countless parents and teachers have testified at district board meetings that the increase is well deserved by teachers and will stop the current brain drain.

The district recently raised salaries for school principals and department heads after deciding that the pay being offered was not competitive for recruitment and retention.

According to Assistant Superintendent Joan Rosas, the teachers association rejected the district’s offer on Thurday. On Friday, both parties were sent by a state mediator into fact-finding.

“The district is disappointed that SMETA has rejected this offer,” a statement from the school district said. “The district remains hopeful that the fact-finding process will provide the avenue to solving the breakdown in negotiations.”

SMETA representatives were unable to be reached for comment on the developments.

Rosas said, “Everybody was really hopeful that this settlement would resolve the problems,” because it was a small increase over the offer the district had stood by for months.

Originally, the district was offering a 4 percent increase, retroactive to 2006, with a 2 percent one-time increase and a half-percent for teachers with special training.

Under the district’s offer, salaries for beginning teachers would increase from less than $40,000 annually to just more than $42,000 and the district’s highest-paid teachers would have a salary increase of almost $9,000, from $72,820 to $81,661.

Rosas said she was unsure when the actual fact-finding process would begin. The panel will consist of union-appointed, state-appointed and district-appointed members. The panel will consider the presentations from both sides, investigate their claims and make a final recommendation.

Latest offers on the table

San Mateo Elementary Teachers Association

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

San Mateo-Foster City School District

» percent increase retroactive to July 1, 2006

» 1.5 percent increase for the 2007-08 school year

» 1.25 percent in equity adjustments to certain salary levels

jgoldman@examiner.com

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