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Dixon School District, DESPA agree to contract

Teachers aides were without contract for nearly 20 months

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 9:37 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014 9:42 p.m. CDT

DIXON – After nearly 20 months of negotiating, the Dixon School District and the Dixon Educational Support Personnel Association have agreed to contract.

The 4-year contract was ratified by the union members, the school district’s teacher aides, before Wednesday night’s school board meeting and then approved by the board.

The contract covers the 2012-13 and current school years and will expire after the 2015-16 school year.

Mindy Donoho, the DESPA president, officially announced to the school board that the contract had been ratified and thanked them for coming to an agreement.

“I would like to thank our negotiating team, at this time, for their hard work, for the time spent away from their families,” Donoho said. “I would also like to thank our continual support from our membership and for their patience.

“Tomorrow is a new day, and we will continue to work hard for our students, for our teaches and for our community.”

The DESPA members in the crowd – numbering about a dozen wearing black DESPA T-shirts – stood and applauded after Donoho finished speaking.

It was the second agreement the two sides had reached since the previous contract expired in June 2012. A tentative agreement was reached in August 2013 but wasn’t ratified by the union members.

The second tentative agreement was reached Jan. 28, and was approved by the union and school board on Wednesday.

School Board President Pam Tourtillott and Donoho each signed the contract and then shook hands, bringing on another roar of applause from the DESPA members in attendance and the school board.

School Superintendent Michael Juenger said he was appreciative of the work done by both negotiating teams.

“I think we all share in a little bit of joy in the fact that this is done,” Juenger said, adding that the final language of the contract was agreed upon around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

In December, after nearly 18 months of negotiating, the school district declared an impasse, and each side’s final offer was made public Dec. 18.

The sticking point in the negotiations was the way the district wanted to calculate the hours worked in relation to being eligible for health insurance coverage.

The issue was settled through a memorandum of understanding that was signed by both sides prior to the January board meeting.

In that memorandum of understanding, the district agreed to calculate the hours the way it had been done on the previous contract, and the union agreed not to contest the hire of some new employees.

The school district was proposing that breaks during the year, during which the teacher aides don’t work, not be removed when the total hours were 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.

Among other changes to the insurance aspects of the contract is that teachers aides who work 30 or more hours a week will be eligible for health insurance. It was previously 20 hours a week.

The changes to the insurance aspects would affect only those DESPA members hired after July 1, 2014.

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