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District might share contract after Monday

Union has to finalize agreement first

Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 1:15 a.m. CST

DIXON – Negotiators for teachers and the board still are modifying language in the teachers contract agreed upon Wednesday, assistant superintendent Margo Empen said Thursday.

That is why the district has asked for a 5-day extension to Sauk Valley Media's Freedom of Information Act request Wednesday for a copy of the teachers contract.

"Right now, there's no contract to give," Empen said.

The district initially had 5 days to respond to the FOIA request. The extension gives it an additional 5 days.

A tentative agreement was reached Wednesday to return teachers and students to school, ending a teachers strike that started Feb. 28 and canceled nine days of classes.

The goal is to have a final contract ready for Dixon Education Association members to ratify Monday, Empen said. Then, the board will vote on it at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Reagan Middle School.

Sandi Sodergren-Baar, union president, said she will not comment on the contract until after the board votes.

The public might get to see the contract before the board votes, however.

Empen said she will ask if the district can release it before Wednesday.

The board's attorney, Stan Eisenhammer, said there is no legal barrier to the district releasing the contract after the DEA has ratified it.

However, the attorney said postponing the board meeting to allow more time for public review is not a likely option, because of the district's desire to rectify retroactive pay to teachers in a timely manner.

Empen and Eisenhammer insisted the district and union are following common procedure, not hiding the contract from the public.

Eisenhammer said contracts usually are not released to the public before they are finalized by both parties, because of the public influence that can result.

The public may sway teachers or board members before voting, Eisenhammer said, with the insinuation that both sides have come too far to have an agreement sidetracked.

In this instance, he also said the board is limited in the activity it may take on the contract, according to union labor rules.

In its offer heading into Tuesday's talks, the Dixon Education Association was asking for a soft freeze in the first year, which would be an average of about a 2 percent pay increase for teachers who qualify for step increases based on experience and education, with a 2 percent increase for teachers who do not qualify for step increases.

In the second year, teachers were asking for a 2 percent increase, plus step increases, with a $400 bonus in the bachelor's lane of education and $750 in the master's lane for those who have maximized their step increases.

Teachers were asking for a 1.75 percent increase in the third year, with a $400 bonus in the bachelor's lane of education and $750 in the master's lane for those who have maximized their step increases.

In the fourth and final year, the DEA was asking for a 2.5 percent increase, plus step increases.

In its latest shared proposal, the board was offering all teachers a 2 percent bonus to their base in the first year of a 2-year proposal, with no steps. In the second year, the board was offering a 2 percent increase and step increases.

What's next?

The Dixon Education Association plans to ratify the 4-year contract Monday at 3 p.m.

The Dixon school board plans to approve the contract during its next meeting, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Reagan Middle School.

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