SAN RAMON (CBS SF) – Teachers with the San Ramon Valley Unified School District are in talks with administrators Wednesday to hammer out a contract agreement and avert a strike.
The two sides met Wednesday morning after 98 percent of teachers voted last week to authorize a strike.
"We started negotiations back in September and made very little movement at the table," said Ann Katzburg, president of the San Ramon Valley Education Association (SRVEA), the union that represents nearly 1,700 teachers and other licensed school employees.
"When that happened, we decided to see what our members were willing to stand together in solidarity for," Katzburg said.
The teachers, whose contract expires at the end of June, are asking for a 5 percent raise and class size reductions, among other things.
"It really, truly is about our students," Katzburg said. "For us, it's about building a relationship with our students and everyone understands that class size is important to a student's success."
The teachers are also asking for a shift to hiring speech language pathologists as regular employees instead of using contractors and the addition of a preparation period for elementary school teachers.
The talks are based on a framework that union and district officials agreed to follow on Monday.
"We're at the negotiation table (Wednesday)," district spokeswoman Elizabeth Graswich said. "Things are looking really positive."
The framework, while an important step, isn't an agreement and Katzburg said the two sides still have a long way to go.
"We have not signed a tentative agreement, so we are in the thick of it right now," Katzburg said. "We really don't want to strike but we will."
If an agreement is reached, the union leadership will present it to its membership for a vote.
If the two sides can't reach common ground, the teachers could strike as early as the later part of April, according to Katzburg.
On Tuesday, district and union officials released a joint news release expressing hope that they could reach an agreement Wednesday.
"We are very pleased with the progress made this week through heartfelt conversations with SRVEA leadership," Superintendent Rick Schmitt said in the release. "We are grateful to both teams for focusing on identifying common goals and finding creative solutions to support our students, staff, parents and community."
The possibility of a strike comes on the heels of the seven-day Oakland teachers' strike that earned those workers an 11 percent pay increase, a one-time 3 percent bonus, a five-month delay on school closures, class size reductions and a moratorium on the approval of new charter schools, among other things.
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