Mayor Marion Barry made a personal visit to a union meeting yesterday to announce the settlement of a wage dispute that could have led to a walkout by 1,100 cafeteria workers in the city's public schools.

Barry told a meeting of about 150 union members at Woodson High School, 56th and Eads streets NE, that he and his aides had found a way to pay the employes an average wage increase of 42 cents an hour retroactive to last Oct. 22. He said they will get the back pay on Feb. 9.

Local 2093 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employes had called the meeting to discuss strategy for a possible job action if the issue remained unsettled.

An agreement on the higher wages was reached last summer, but union officials said the city's budget office under the administration of former Mayor Walter E. Washington had said the money could not be paid until Congress voted a supplemental appropriation to the city. Up to $1.2 million was involved this fiscal year.

Barry said he found a way to make stopgap payments from a revolving fund, to be replenished by an appropriation later. The largest group of the affected cafeteria employes earns $4.54 an hour for a six-hour workday.

Earlier yesterday, Barry met privately with members of the Board of Education and School Superintendent Vincent E. Reed.

Board members said Barry, a former school board president, told them he had decided against creating a special unit of the city government to oversee education.

Carol Schwartz, school board vice president, said board members told the mayor they were uneasy about his criticisms of the school system, notably comments made Sunday about noise and drugs at Cardozo High School.

"... The board is as interested in better schools as he is," Schwartz said."So we told him to back off and let us enact some of the things we are trying to do."