OAKLAND — The school board on Wednesday night imposed a contract on its teachers union — quite possibly for the first time in the district's history. The vote to immediately impose a so-called "status quo contract" was unanimous and prompted an uproar in the board room.

"Shame on you," a teacher shouted to the board.

The two sides had negotiated for more than two years, and the district administration at one point asked teachers to take a 3 percent pay cut. The union demanded a 15 percent raise, smaller caseloads for counselors and nurses, and small class sizes — all things the school district says it cannot afford as it faces a general purpose fund deficit of $37 million for the upcoming school year.

Several board members and the superintendent said they agreed that the district needs to offer more competitive salaries; Oakland teachers, on average, earn much less than most of their counterparts in the Bay Area. Still, at least two board members said the collective bargaining process had failed.

"This process has got to stop," trustee Alice Spearman said. "We've got to end it so we can move forward. "... I'm not willing for this district to go back under state authority. No more."

The teachers and residents who packed the board room expressed outrage that the district administration refused to return to the bargaining table after the release of a fact-finding report by a mediator, who recommended modest raises for teachers. Several speakers noted that the district-appointed representative even signed off on the findings. The union plans to hold a one-day strike April 29. The district has recruited emergency substitutes, offering $300 a day.


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Ward Rountree, executive director of the Oakland Education Association, said a contract imposition "in a labor sense is analogous to a declaration of war."

"Oakland students suffer by your irresponsible actions in this regard," he added.