Teachers, district see little progress 

As high school students and parents filed into classrooms Thursday and Friday nights for Open House throughout the San Mateo Union High School District, an agreement between teachers and district officials remains elusive.

If a deal over both health care costs and a new contract isn’t reached, the impasse will graduate into the fact-finding stage next week, which will prompt teachers to file unfair labor practice charges with the Federal Labor Relations Authority, further deteriorating talks between the two sides.

"There’s not really much we can talk about right now," said Craig Childress, president of the district’s Teachers Association, citing that negotiations are confidential.

However, the tone of both sides has been despondent compared with March 1, when they expressed optimism with negotiations.

"The district did move quite a bit toward our position," at that time, Childress said.

District officials continue to stay mum while offers are lobbed back and forth. In an interview last week, Associate Superintendent Ethel Konopka said that continuing talk is an encouraging sign.

"We’re not finished. And it’s always positive when two parties continue their talks," she said.

While a potential strike is several months away, teachers continue periodic picketing in front of the district office. In January, the financially strapped district began deducting paychecks to cover medical benefits. Childress said the rift over medical costs and a new contract are two different issues.

"They are separate issues but they are part of the same problem, which is a failure of negotiations with the district," Childress said.

At a board meeting earlier this month, Liz McManus, the

district’s associate superintendent of business, presented a plan to the district board that mapped out a possible road to fiscal recovery. The district has a mandatory financial obligation of maintaining a $2.7 million reserve.

The plan involves consolidating $50 million worth of loans along with the anticipation that property taxes — a source of district revenue — will shoot up 4.5 percent next year, which translates into more than $800,000 more toward the reserve. However, the district is projected to dip into its general fund and pay about $475,000 toward its debt.

In September, the district board narrowly approved $3.5 million in budget cuts, which included the dismissal of 12 temporary teachers and 36 classified staff members.

bfoley@examiner.com

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