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District, union closer to agreement in Dixon

DIXON – Work is expected to begin today to finalize a new contract between Dixon Public Schools and the Dixon Educational Support Personnel Association.

The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding before the Dixon school board meeting in January, and had a scheduled meeting today to “clean up” the final language in the contract, Dixon Public Schools Superintendent Michael Juenger said.

Mindy Donoho, the union’s president, said she hoped to have the final contract agreed to after the meeting and have it ready to be taken to her members for a vote.

“I think both sides want to come together and finish this,” she said. “It’s time. And I think that’s why we were able to come up with an agreement.”

Teachers aides, who are represented by DESPA, have been working without a contract for about 19 months. The union and the school district reached a tentative agreement in August, but it wasn’t ratified by the union members.

The sticking point in that agreement was the way the district would calculate hours worked, in relation to health insurance coverage for new hires.

In the memorandum of understanding, Juenger and Donoho said, the district agreed to calculate the hours the way it had been done previously, and in return, the union agreed not to contest the hiring of several substitute teachers as regular employees.

The district had 90 days to hire the substitute teachers as regular employees, Juenger said, and the school board meeting was held on Day 89.

The district had proposed that breaks during the year, which the teacher aides don’t work, wouldn’t be removed when the total hours are divided by the weeks.

With that calculation, 15 minutes less a day could determine whether or not new hires are eligible for health insurance.

DESPA members had already agreed to an increase from 20 hours to 30 to be eligible for insurance, in addition to other changes in the contract relating to insurance converge.

The contract also calls for raises, including 7 percent for the 2013-14 school year.

The proposed contract is for 4 years, including 2012-13 and the current school year, meaning that the contract would expire after the 2015-16 school year.

The school district declared an impasse in the negotiations Dec. 4. The final offers from both sides became public Dec. 18.

If the contract is finalized today, it will still need to be approved by the school board and the DESPA members.

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