Tensions are heightening and emotions are flaring as San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District teachers grow angrier with school officials amidst deadlocked contract negotiations.

Teachers dissatisfied with their pay and the district’s bargaining position staged demonstrations earlier this week as the two sides have been released to fact finding, often the final phase of stalled negotiations pre-empting a strike.

Union President Julie MacArthur, also a teacher at Baywood Elementary School, said educators feel undervalued and disrespected, fueling considerations of a work stoppage if more progress in negotiations is not soon made.

“A majority of our members are ready to do what they need to do to get a fair contract and that includes a strike, no question,” she said.

A district official was not readily available to discuss the issue, but a prepared statement from spokeswoman Amber Farinha expressed administrators’ interest in resolving the contract dispute in short order.

“The San Mateo-Foster City School District will continue to work toward a successful conclusion to these negotiations. During this time, as always, the district’s focus remains on the success and well-being of the students, staff and community we serve,” she said.

MacArthur though questions the district’s motivations, claiming officials are more concerned with stockpiling money in reserves than spending it on those responsible for assuring students are offered a quality education.

“Right now there is an utter breakdown of trust that our district will spend the money on students who need it the most,” she said.

Negotiations grew so contentious that teachers earlier this week parked off the campus at some schools in an effort to demonstrate the appearance of a strike, while other teachers are rallying the support of parents in favor of higher wagers.

MacArthur said these are tough times for teachers feeling increasingly fed up with the ongoing contract strife.

“Tensions are high at this point. We are very frustrated. Unfortunately, as leadership for teachers, it’s really heartbreaking and demoralizing,” MacArthur said.

Officials have claimed the need for fiscal conservatism is essential following the recent narrow failure of a parcel tax measure, resulting in the loss of a revenue stream generating about $7 million annually. To improve the district’s financial footing, officials identified about $8.5 million in budget cuts.

Trustees agreed it is necessary to go back out to voters in pursuit of another tax measure, suggesting the initiative may be again floated in the spring. In preparation for that effort, incoming trustees Shara Watkins and Noelia Corzo agreed teacher advocacy in favor of the tax would be crucial to it passing. Corzo, Watkins and Rebecca Hitchcock were elected Tuesday, Nov. 7, to replace outgoing trustees Ed Coady, Chelsea Bonini and Lory Lorimer Lawson.

MacArthur said educators would consider campaigning for the coming measure, with a guarantee it would directly benefit the classroom.

“If we are going to put our sweat equity into a parcel tax then we want to make darn sure it goes to students and teachers,” she said.

Reaching a contract settlement before the tax is floated to voters would go a long way to encouraging teachers to promote the measure, said MacArthur, adding the union has gone nearly 500 days without a new deal.

District teachers earned an average of $75,328 in the last fiscal year, according to the state Department of Education. Teachers in the neighboring Burlingame Elementary School District earned an average of $74,433, while teachers in the Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary School District earned an average of $80,855.

The current salaries have resulted in constant teacher turnover, leading to poor student performance on the latest round of standardized tests, MacArthur said.

She maintained optimism though that the nature of contract negotiations may improve in coming weeks once the newly elected trustees join the school board.

“Hopefully this new board will bring about the change we need and the way the district deals with teachers,” she said.

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(15) comments

Henry Case

Tie school scores to teacher salaries. Scores in San Mateo schools are way down, don't reward bad teaching with more money.

Henry Case

Has anyone seen the scores for the San Mateo schools? They are in the crapper. No thanks to rewarding teachers for doing a terrible job.


I recommend the following articles to those who think that vouchers are the solution to education problems:





Chew on this: the current collective bargaining agreement defines the teachers' work day as 7.25 hours, with 40-60 minutes for lunch. That brings the official work day to 6.25-6.45 hours. Not to mention the work year is a max of 186 days, which is roughly 37 weeks. I'd say their comp isn't bad when you consider those two points.

Thomas Morgan

To clarify teachers only get 5 weeks off during the summer. Further, last time I checked landlords and banks do not give teachers a break on the rent or mortgage when school is out.


Most teachers’ salaries do not average $76,872 across the board. At the national level the average teacher makes an estimated $40,000 a year. In the entire New York City area the average salary for experience (MA) teachers is roughly $65,000. Why are these Unions asking for increases, in these already wealthy districts? If there is an increase it should be pluralistic. I hear Oklahoman teachers make around $45K and students do far better than our spoiled kids. Unless of course these consortium of erudite teachers is responsible for the massive influx of gifted kids in the Bay Area! As a taxpayer I would want to see the cost-effectiveness of an investment. True education is the Seed of our future. But the future of ALL is not confined to sunny bastion of (greedy) communities in Burlingame, Redwood-Shores and Belmont. Competent teachers and effective education requires a Macro system change… Btw, “Greed” does not equate to excellence is academia (just saying).

Fidel Marcelo Moran, MSW


The other issue has been the spike in CalSTRS and CalPERS pension funding contribution requirements imposed by the state on local governments. We're still feeling the affects of the 2008 financial crisis. You can look at the districts new OpenGov website for insight there into the load that's now been put on our shoulders locally. https://smfcsdca.opengov.com/transparency#/16451/accountType=expenses&breakdown=types&currentYearAmount=cumulative&currentYearPeriod=years&graph=bar&legendSort=coa&proration=true&saved_view=39498&selection=C982EFF647FD11B109FD4F96410F3CE7&year=NaN&fiscal_start=earliest&fiscal_end=latest Teachers' compensation in the future is also part of what's putting a ceiling on the District's resources to pay for higher teacher compensation in the present.


I've been attending school board meetings all year as concerned citizen. The most recent high level report on the close of the 2016-17 fiscal year can be downloaded from http://agendaonline.net/public/Meeting/Attachments/DisplayAttachment.aspx?AttachmentID=670847&IsArchive=0. (The full financials can be accessed at http://agendaonline.net/public/Meeting/Attachments/DisplayAttachment.aspx?AttachmentID=669202&IsArchive=0) These were shared in the September 28, 2017 SMFCSDBoard of Trustees meeting, Agenda item 9.2. (http://agendaonline.net/public/Meeting.aspx?AgencyID=127&MeetingID=51082&AgencyTypeID=1&IsArchived=False)

I have not been privy to any of the negotiations, but an important bit of public context into the pay impasse lies in Slide 8 of the slide deck highlights that $9,307,315 of the close of year ending fund balance have already been set aside for teacher pay increases and there is currently only $191,683 in unassigned funds. None of that changes how expensive it is to live in this area, nor does it change past budget decisions that the District and the Board may have made — but, especially, with the failure of the Measure Y Parcel tax — there isn't some stash of unassigned, unrestricted cash sitting around. With not enough taxpayers stepping up to support the parcel tax, we're already looking at program cuts which will involve layoffs. We can't erase past decisions, but in the present the only apparent ways to higher pay per teacher are that generous private beneficiaries make multiple millions of dollars in donations to the San Mateo Foster City Educational Foundation (http://smfcedfund.org/) or we lay off even more teachers —negatively affecting teacher:student ration and packing classrooms even more — so that per teacher pay can be higher.

Here's to hoping that some local angels step forward with a holiday miracle of Ed Foundation donations, or else a January strike appears inevitable.


Instead of comparing average salaries between the districts, one should look at the salary scales that are posted online at each district's website.

We need to funnel more money to the teachers who are starting out in the profession, not those who are at the top of the pay scale and on the verge of retirement (which will mainly top off pensions, not benefit students). New teachers are the ones who are struggling to find housing; their elders are much more likely to already live in the area.

The current practice is to give everyone the same percentage increase. This funnels the most money to the people at the top.

Instead, the district should increase the salary tiers to be competitive with neighboring districts. I have written about these problems at length in the following articles:




David- Will check out these posts. Thanks for sharing!


I must say, 75-80,000 a year to baby sit k-6 is a nice amount of money. 7-12 is harder and the kids need to really learn things other than trans rights or how cops wake up in the morning looking for some person of color to beat up or how to protest with a mask on. Many teachers are good, but many are bad. Kinda like conservatives and liberals. Teacher salaries are not that much of a big deal. It's an easy given. So why are there problems every year after year?? Every year a "new" school bond issue pops up. It gets old. The democrat party and rhinos seem to believe ... just keep hammering the people with stuff and like magic it works, they get their dollars to find new things to spend it on. Kind of like the new gas tax. What a scam, compliments of Kalifornia politicians!



I understand that people are tired of paying taxes. I spent most of my life in the private sector and decided to teach near the end of my career because I also did not like societal trends.

It is easy to complain about the way things are going. Instead, why not volunteer in a school and try to improve things (assuming you are real and not a Russian agent or a bot ;-) ! That way you could experience what teachers do to earn their money first hand. You might even change your mind about your comments above!

Christopher Conway

This article makes it imperative that voters living in the district vote NO on any new taxes, especially a parcel tax. Stop looking at the taxpayer for more and more money, consolidate school districts and use technology to cut cost, the taxpayer is tapped out in California and these public institutions need to realize that. Vote NO on any new taxes proposed by the San Mateo- Foster City School District.


People are getting extremely tired of libertarians trying to destroy public education. Public education is the cornerstone of our democracy. Please ignore "crusaders" like the above and deal with these problems constructively! Thank you.

Christopher Conway

Vouchers now- let the money go to the student not the school district. Competition is what our educational system needs. Its hard to teach our children for the 21st century when our education is 19th century. Evolve or die- Darwin.

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