Quincy's teachers union, the Quincy Education Association, voted yesterday to strike after failing to reach a contract agreement with the city's School Committee.
Superintendent Richard DeCristofaro could not be reached last night, but a posting on the school district's website said that classes at the city's 19 public schools would be canceled for the system's 11,000 students today.
About 820 of the union's 900 members attended the strike vote at the Boston Teacher's Union Hall in Dorchester, according to Paul Phillips, union president , who called the vote to strike "overwhelming."
"It was a highly charged meeting," Phillips said in a phone interview. "Teachers are not the type of people who are routinely engaged in civil disobedience."
Phillips said Mayor William Phelan's offer to increase teacher salaries by 13 percent over four years was inadequate when combined with an increase in health insurance costs.
Phelan proposed doubling the employee share of insurance costs to 20 percent to help absorb the soaring costs for the city.
Phillips said that without a more gradual increase, the mayor was essentially proposing a pay cut. Many teachers' raises would be "wiped out or very low over the four years, and that doesn't meet inflation," he said. "Your standard of living goes down."
The union set a deadline of yesterday to reach an agreement because with one week of school left, there must be time to consider the contract before it is signed.
Administrative staff is expected to report to school and will be stationed in buildings at 5 a.m. in case students arrive and have to stay, said Elaine Dwyer, Quincy School Committee vice chairwoman.
Quincy police will patrol school bus stops to make sure no students are left unattended, she said.
Teachers plan to picket until about 10 a.m. and then attend a meeting at the Boston Teacher s Union Hall.