Barring a last-minute contract settlement, the city's teachers will meet this afternoon to consider a possible strike that could begin as early as tomorrow morning.
Representatives of the Cambridge Teachers Association (CTA) and the city began meeting late last evening in an attempt to reach tentative agreement on a new contract and avert the threatened strike.
A neutral mediator in the dispute has placed a gag order on the negotiators, but sources on both sides said last night there were still at least four major issues preventing agreement. Movement towards a settlement was "obvious" as negotiations resumed last night, sources said.
If no agreement is reached, teachers will assemble at 2 p.m. today at the city armory to "consider possible action," Silvio Scaglione, spokesman for the CTA, said yesterday.
"There's been talk of a strike--it's a serious possibility, though I can't predict how the vote will go," Scaglione said. "I can tell you the membership is angry," he added.
Disagreement on several issues divided the sides going into last night's meeting: They included:
*Whether teachers at the high school should continue to work a seventh period during the school day, a policy instituted in the wake of last winter's stabbing death at the school;
*Vacation time for administrators, which city officials would like to see reduced to six weeks;
*The method by which teachers will be recalled in the case of any layoffs. The CTA is pressing for recall by seniority;
*Increased wages ("Money is always important," Scaglione said).
"Each of the issues is just as important as the other, and we look quite a ways apart on them all," Scaglione said.
Teachers have been "working to rule"--complying only with the minimum requirements of their contracts--and staging "informational pickets" before school for more than a week. Scaglione said 85 to 90 per cent of teachers had participated in the picketing