DIXON – Several hours before the Dixon School Board met in the auditorium at Dixon High School, the final offers from the district and the Dixon Educational Support Personnel Association went public after nearly 18 months of private negotiations.
Those offers, and the long negotiation, were addressed during the meeting.
DESPA President Mindy Donoho addressed the crowd and the school board during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Moments later, Superintendent Michael Juenger reviewed points of the school district’s final offer and the tentative agreement that had been reached, but wasn’t ratified by DESPA members, in August.
The sticking point in the negotiation, which reached an impasse Dec. 4, is the way the district will calculate the hours worked to be eligible for health insurance.
The district’s proposal is to define the school year, which hadn’t been defined in the previous contract that expired in June 2012, as the first institute day to the last institute day, Juenger said.
The issue DESPA takes with that calculation, Donoho told Sauk Valley Media in an interview this month, is the fact that breaks during the year, during which the teacher aides don’t work, are not removed when the total hours are divided by the weeks.
With that calculation, 15 minutes less a day can mean the difference between new hires being eligible for health insurance and not.
“Insurance is a real cost that is affecting how we do business,” Juenger said when discussing points of the contract with the school board. He added that the board has agreed to “substantial” raises – 7 percent for the 2013-14 school year.
Hiring new teacher’s aides for less than 30 hours a week specifically to eliminate the health insurance cost isn’t the school district’s longterm plan, Juenger said in an interview prior to the meeting. But its longterm plan is to control the cost of health insurance.
Juenger stressed that no current DESPA member would lose their insurance, based on the district’s offer, unless they chose to be covered on a different plan. The insurance change would only affect new hires.
School Board President Pam Tourtillott said the district wanted to protect all current employees.
“Anyone new that would come into the district would understand that this is the situation,” she said. “It’s a difficult time, so we have to make a difficult decision. ... Going forward, people that would come, they would know what’s available and what’s not available.”