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Dixon School Board declares impasse in negotiations with DESPA

Negotiations have lasted months

Published: Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

DIXON – Negotiations between the Dixon school district and the union representing teachers aides and assistants reached an impasse Wednesday night.

A meeting between representatives of the Dixon Educational Support Personnel Association and the school district and Superintendent Michael Juenger lasted from 5 p.m. until approximately 7:30, when the school board declared an impasse, DESPA President Mindy Donoho and Juenger said.

Juenger said “both sides are pretty much adamant about their position.”

During the meeting, the district presented Donoho and the association with a counteroffer to the DESPA proposal from November, in hopes of ending a nearly 18-month contract negotiation.

Dixon teacher aides and assistants have been working without a contract since June 2012.

Prior to the Wednesday night meeting, Donoho was optimistic the school district would counter with a positive offer, she said.

Donoho added that, if they reached an agreement, it could have been taken to DESPA members during their scheduled meeting today.

Donoho wouldn’t say what options DESPA would consider going forward, only that they will be discussed during today’s meeting. She said she stills holds hope an agreement can be reached, but also said DESPA won’t be making a counteroffer.

The final issue to be resolved, Donoho said, is insurance. In the past, despite low pay, the teachers aides and assistants have had good benefits, she said.

Both sides reached a tentative agreement in August, but the pay wasn’t enough to compensate for some aides and assistants losing their benefits, Donoho said, so the union didn’t accept it.

DESPA and the teachers aides and assistants are aware of the financial situation the district is in, Donoho said, but cutting their benefits or pay further wouldn’t do much to balance the budget.

The school district is facing a $1.5 million budget deficit in its current fiscal year. In October, Juenger presented the school board with a proposal to close Lincoln Elementary School.

By closing Lincoln, cutting various school funds, and laying off some teachers and staff, the district could balance its budget by the 2017 fiscal year, according to several options Juenger presented to the school board during its November meeting.

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