DIXON – The teachers’ negotiating team told about 60 to 80 parents Wednesday that there’s nowhere else to move in contract talks.
The Dixon Education Association picketed for a fifth day as classes again were canceled, and hosted a question-and-answer session for the public that evening at the Elks Club.
No deal was reached, and teachers say they have made about as many concessions as they can.
Both sides remain apart in salary, health insurance and retirement.
“The only way this strike can be resolved is by you, the parents, and you voicing your opinion to the board,” said Dolph Ricks, negotiator and teacher at Reagan Middle School. “These schools are yours. The board works for you. It’s not going to happen at the (bargaining table) for us anymore. We’re stuck. We need you to take it over, so we can move.”
Jackie Hummel, a mother of two Dixon High School students, attended Wednesday’s session because she said teachers don’t have the resources they need.
“There’s too many students with not enough help,” Hummel said. “Students don’t have enough textbooks, so they can’t bring them home to study. Teachers aren’t allowed to make enough copies. And I have a high school senior who should be running in a track meet, he’s being recruited, and he can’t.
“All the blame goes to (Superintendent) Mr. (Michael) Juenger and the board.”
Union President Sandi Sodergren-Baar said the teachers negotiating team offered to meet again today, but the board’s team was unable. The next session is scheduled for Friday.
Teachers opened the public forum by comparing each side’s offer and district finances, presented by Lisa Guenther, a business teacher at Dixon High School.
Teachers are not asking for a contract the district can’t afford, Ricks said, noting the district has more than $10 million in its operating funds and received a 3.9 out of 4 financial rating from the Illinois State Board of Education.
Teachers’ salaries, however, come from the education fund, which has about $4.2 million, and a public hearing and board vote would be required to move cash from one fund to the next.
In its last contract, teachers took a soft freeze, meaning they only moved in pay through step increases based on experience and education. Seventeen teachers and several paraprofessionals were cut.
“And (the district) made $1.5 million,” Ricks said of those cuts, noting the district built up a surplus despite projecting a deficit.
More than one teacher presenting or answering questions said the union is opposed to giving up pay steps.
Educational resources for special education and limiting class sizes need to be more of a priority for the board; contract talks have relegated those items to the “resource” section of the contract, Sodergren-Baar said.
She explained that part of the contract is used as starting points for the next contract.
“We want them to give up the talk of building new schools and sports complexes,” Sodergren-Baar said.
When asked if parents should allow their children to cross the picket line, if the district hires substitutes, Sodergren-Baar said she could not answer that question.
“That’s up to the parent,” she said.
Lisa Grygiel, who has two students in Dixon schools, asked those in attendance to participate in a picket with her in front of the central office this morning.
She said the school can afford to add staff for special education and purchase more textbooks.
“They need to put the kids first.”
Here are videos from the public Q&A session at the Dixon Elks Lodge concerning the Dixon teacher strike and negotiations.