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Dixon schools: Kids will take ISATs next week

DIXON – The school board is asking administrators to make plans to get some students back in school next week so they can take their state tests – with or without the teachers.

Classes were canceled for a fifth day Wednesday as the Dixon Education Association remains on strike. Talks ended with no change in the latest financial proposals; another session is scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday.

Starting today, the district will lose about $28,506 in general state aid for each day it has no classes.

"The DEA deliberately went out on strike during the only time of year that the district can undertake ISAT (Illinois Standards Achievement Test) testing of its students," board President Tom Balser said in a news release. "We cannot wait any longer. The board has asked the administration to make plans for students to return to school for ISAT testing beginning next week with or without the teachers.” 

ISATs, taken in the spring by third- through eighth-graders, are being held March 4-15 this year, according to the state board of education's website.

The release also said DEA representatives showed up to Wednesday's session at 2 p.m., an hour late, because they decided to meet with their members.

“The DEA’s actions demonstrate that the teachers have no interest in bringing this unfortunate strike to a conclusion," board President Tom Balser said.

Union President Sandi Sodergren-Baar said the DEA called the board at 12:24 p.m. to tell members they would be late to the table.

"Our membership was voting to pre-ratify a contract proposal that would have brought the students back to the classroom tomorrow morning," Sodergren-Baar said.

Superintendent Michael Juenger confirmed the teachers did make that call.

"The unfortunate part is that five members of the [negotiating] team have other responsibilities and could have made other arrangements had they been given adequate notice," Juenger said. "One team member has used 3 vacation days to be able to attend the meetings.

"It was after 3 [p.m.] when their proposal was presented."

The board took 30 minutes to reject that offer and resubmit their previous proposal, Sodergren-Baar said.

The teachers' offer included the same 2 percent to be added to the salary schedule for each of the next 4 years, on top of pay step increases of between 1 percent and 2 percent for experience and education, that was offered Tuesday.

However, it said teachers would phase out the 6 percent retirement incentive if the board was willing to drop its proposal for spouses of new employees to take insurance provided by their employers.

Information on how ISAT testing will be handled will be released Friday.

"The details are being worked out," Juenger said. "We are waiting on some additional information from the State Board of Education."

A few parents attending a union question-and-answer Wednesday night said they would not allow their children to attend testing.

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