Beverly Hills teachers and the school district are scheduled to resume negotiations today under the direction of a state mediator, with both sides saying they are willing to go into marathon talks to avoid a strike.
The teachers union has said it will strike Monday if a salary agreement is not reached. The district has offered a pay raise of 9% over two years; the Beverly Hills Education Assn., which represents about 300 teachers, wants double that.
Mary Handelsman, a teacher who earns $46,000 after 26 years in the district, said she is ready to strike.
"I've had students who've gone to Harvard because I told them they can do it," she said as she took part in a teachers' protest march Tuesday down Rodeo Drive. "I'm proud of the work I've done and I think they're proud of me. . . . The servant is worthy of his hire."
Schools Supt. Robert French earlier declined to comment on the protest but said he was "still very positive we'll be able to reach a settlement." He has vowed to keep the schools open if there is a strike and said that almost 200 substitutes have been hired.