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Talks go late, again

District to open schools for child care this morning

DIXON – The strike continues.

The Dixon Education Association and the Dixon School Board broke contract talks at 11 p.m. Sunday without an agreement. Those negotiations started at 1 p.m.

Classes will be canceled. Another negotiation session is scheduled for 6:30 tonight.

"We made progress in many language areas and the board offered a 3-year contract that was equal to the cost of living index," Superintendent Michael Juenger said of Sunday's session in an email.

Juenger said the board will release a comprehensive statement prior to today's talks.

Sandi Sodergren-Baar, union president, said Sunday's meeting concluded with the board giving a financial package. It included salary, health insurance and retirement. 

Agreements were reached on length of day, length of school year and time for collaboration, Sodergren-Baar said in an email late Sunday.

"Other issues such as classroom conditions, extra help for special education students and their teachers (both regular and special education teachers) was totally disregarded by the Board," Sodergren-Baar said. "All financial issues and classroom conditions remain on the table and will be the topic for (tonight's) negotiations." 

The school district also will begin offering child care services at 7:20 this morning.

The district's 168 teachers have been on strike since Thursday, meaning 2 days of classes have been canceled. Sauk Valley Community College also announced dual credit courses are canceled during the strike.

In their last publicly stated offer, teachers were asking for an annual pay increase of 3.75 percent on top of built-in salary incentives for experience or education over the life of a 5-year contract, meaning a number of teachers would receive pay raises of between 5 percent and 6 percent per year under the proposal.

In its previous publicly stated offer, the Dixon school board was offering 1 percent pay increases for 2 years, while doing away with the salary schedule and asking the teachers to work more. At the time, both sides debated how much more work the language of the offer meant.

The school board also asked teachers to pay $85 a month for a single insurance plan and $331 a month for a family plan, and it wants teachers to agree to take their spouse's insurance plan if they are eligible for family insurance.

Margo Empen, assistant superintendent, said Friday that more than 50 students are signed up for the child care, which will be provided by the district's administrators and paraprofessionals.

Attendance is not required, and it will not count as a school day because there will be no instruction.

As of Friday afternoon, all parents had been notified where their children were going. Parents must provide transportation and lunches. For safety reasons, they must drop off and pick up their students, Empen said.

The district is using its three elementary schools to place students close to home. Siblings are paired together.

Students will rotate between activities that include movies, computers, arts and crafts, and library time.

Need child care?

Parents still can register for child care by calling the district office at 815-284-7722 or by going online to to fill out forms.

Need child care?

Parents still can register for child care by calling the district office at 815-284-7722 or by going online to to fill out forms.

What's next?

The teachers' negotiating team and the school board are scheduled to meet for contract talks again at 6:30 p.m. today.

Teachers also will host a question-and-answer session for the public at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Dixon Elks Club, 1279 Franklin Grove Road.

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