Please Contact your Board Members

Please contact your Board Members and ask them to work with the Dixon Education Association to quickly and fairly come to a resolution to this crisis.

Tom Balser

844 North Ottawa

Dixon, IL 61021

 

Jim Schielein

1381 Dutch Road

Dixon, IL 61021

 

Tom Lemoine

838 Riverside Drive

Dixon, IL 61021

 

John Jacobs

1815 Deer Crossing Ct.

Dixon, IL 61021

 

Pam Tourtillott

532 Apple Street

Dixon, IL 61021

 

Kevin Sward

222 West Graham

Dixon, IL 61021

 

Woody Lenox

1806 West First Street

Dixon, IL 61021

 

Also, please contact the district’s superintendent, Mr. Michael Juenger at:

Dixon Public Schools

1335 Franklin Grove Road

Dixon, IL 61021

815-284-7722

The Dixon Education Association will be holding a parent information meeting on Tuesday, March 5th at 7:00 p.m. at the Dixon Elks. Please join us for a chance to have your questions answered by the teachers.

Parent Information Meeting

Please join the Dixon Education Association for an informational meeting for parents:

Tuesday, March 5

7:00 p.m.

at the

Dixon Elks – 1279 Franklin Grove Rd, Dixon, IL

A Letter to the Community from the Dixon Education Association

Dear Parents, Substitute Teachers, and Community members,

The Dixon Education Association understands that you may be considering volunteering to help the school board open the schools in the event of a strike by our members.  We wish to give you the employees’ point of view before you make a final decision.

First, we appreciate your concern to keep the schools open and your willingness to do what seems good for the students of our community.  However, we would like you to consider whether helping the school board in this situation is a productive way to help your school system.

While the school board’s superintendent, Mr. Michael Juenger, has been describing the dispute as primarily one of money concerns, there are several other unresolved contract areas.  Little productive or earnest discussion has occurred between the board’s negotiators and the DEA’s bargaining team.

Employees need and expect focused negotiations on working/teaching/learning conditions which affect students and teachers at grade levels throughout the district.  The DEA has not asked for these contract ‘language’ items out of greed but, concern for learning, achievement for all students and the quality of the learning conditions and safety necessary for success for all students.

Yes, money is a factor in the unresolved contract discussions but, much more is at issue.

  • The Dixon teachers are currently working for the third school year of a soft freeze to salaries.  The DEA proposal includes moderate raises for teachers.
  • Most teachers retiring in recent years have not been replaced.  So, teachers are teaching  more students.
  • Special education options are being short-changed and the number of classroom aides has dwindled.
  • Teachers will be required to teach a longer day and a longer school year with no compensation for our professional services.
  • The Board’s proposal includes an additional demand for our after-school-time. Teachers would be required to staff concession stands and sell tickets at athletic events.  If a teacher chose not to fulfill those requirements, they would have to pay the district to NOT serve those duties.  This odd perspective on appropriate use of professionals’ time is indicative of the disrespect and disregard the Dixon teachers are shown in the Dixon School Board’s contract offer.

YOU CAN  help to speed the re-opening of the Dixon schools by demanding that your school  board direct its attention on their declared bargaining impasse and get to the business of negotiating  with the DEA’s bargaining team.

Sincerely,

The Dixon Education Association

The Anatomy of Negotiations

On February 4, 2013 Dixon Education Association negotiation member Mr. Ricks and Mrs. Sondergren-Baar spoke in a sidebar with Board negotiators. The DEA requested that there be a non-binding session to discuss contract language BEFORE the February 25th official negotiating session that was scheduled.

Board members said that they would NOT meet without the Board’s attorney. However, when asked by Mr. Ricks if the attorney would be available to attend bargaining sessions in event of a strike, the board members assured Mr. Ricks that they would make sure that he (the lawyer) would clear his calendar in that event. The DEA would like to know, if he would be availabe to come then, why couldn’t he do it before it came to a work stoppage that would throw an entire commnuity into turmoil?

A Letter to the Board from Two Concerned Parents

Dear Dixon School District Board Member,

Having just attended the board meeting this evening, we wanted to write to you to add our voices to those urging the board to reach an equitable settlement with the membership of the DEA as soon as possible. We have read the final positions posted by the board and the association as both sides prepared for mediation. We are familiar with the way in which such negotiations work, with one side making an offer (often in better terms than they hope for) and the other a counter (usually worse than they want) so that there is room for maneuver and compromise. But as we read the board’s final offer, it seemed that the board had rejected almost everything that the association had requested, not just made a counter offer, but rejected it out of hand, and in some cases made a counter that was markedly worse than current practice or contract, even when there seemed to be no dollar cost one way or the other.

It was hard to listen tonight to the discussion of buying land, replacing defective windows at Reagan,  and the underperforming air conditioning there, when our students’ teachers are looking at increased numbers of students, and less help, and our students are looking at less and less opportunity being offered to them. We still bitterly regret the loss of the K-4 art program.

Being told not to let the amount of money that they earn define them as people, was patronizing and insulting. Of course most teachers do not work only for the money, but every one of them has a home, vehicles, and families of their own to support, and so do indeed work for money. Many of them have invested thousands of dollars in their own educations in order to become better professionals, and to be told that in tough times they should not let themselves be defined by dollars or percentages, seems to be willfully naive.

As parents of two students in the district, we feel compelled to support the teachers and the association in their efforts to seek an equitable settlement and their ability to work under a contract that treats them as highly qualified professionals who all work beyond any expectations that the contract requires in order to provide our children with the education they need.

We hope that you will seek to focus on the most important asset that a school district has, not the land it owns, or might own, not the $100 million notional replacement cost for its buildings, but the people who deliver the only service a school has any business delivering, educating kids.

Yours,

Antony and Denise Deter

Dixon, IL

A Letter to the Editor of the Telegraph from Barbara Hermes

To the editor:

In light of Ms. Faley’s article in the Dixini regarding the nearly impossible task of one counselor servicing 800 students, I am compelled to share my thoughts.  I taught at DHS for 26 years, the last 11 years I was a school counselor.  I am outraged and saddened that there was even consideration given this school year to reducing the counseling staff from three to two counselors.  In this day and age, school counselors wear a number of hats:  test coordinators, schedulers, social/emotional/personal counselors, career advisors, and college counselors.  In addition to this, DHS caseloads have included a significant percentage of special needs students. I emailed each school board member and asked for them to carefully review and consider reestablishing the counseling position eliminated at DHS. The American School Counseling Association (ASCA) recommends a ratio of 250 students per 1 counselor.  In the case of Dixon High School this would mean a minimum of three counselors.  Currently the counselors at DHS have a caseload of 413 students each; and, during the 12 weeks Mrs. Ebert was on maternity leave, one counselor was assigned to 826 students! In order to adequately meet the academic, career, and social-emotional needs of our students, an additional counselor is needed.

I took the liberty of surveying area schools with approximately the same enrollment and getting those enrollment numbers from the Illinois Interactive Report Card (IIRC) as to the ratio of students per counselor. Not one school operates with the extreme number of students per counselor that have been assigned at DHS! These calculations do not take into account social workers or community agency counselors assigned to schools.

HIGH SCHOOL

STUDENTS

COUNSELORS

RATIO

Sterling 1,039 4 260:1
Rochelle 940 4 235:1
Streator 889 3 296:1
Geneseo 866 3 289:1
Marengo 820 3 273:1
Dixon 826 2 413:1

 

I know this district has made an incredible number of cuts over the past few years, but there is no arguing that every student needs support, guidance, and opportunities during their high school years. This is a time of rapid growth and change and our teens face unique and diverse challenges, both personally and developmentally, that impact academic achievement. Certified school counselors are professional educators with a mental health perspective who understand and respond to these challenges. As a former DHS counselor, and a four decade citizen of this community, I hope and pray that the DPS School Board keep in mind what is best for our students, not what appears to be a budget concern.

Barbara Hermes

A Letter to the Editor of the Telegraph

As the threat of a teacher’s strikes looms; I feel compelled to respond to the impending crisis facing the students and families of the Dixon Public School (DPS) system and so I write this letter to the editor.  I’ll get straight to my point. Here’s what we know. There are two sides, the Board (including the Administration of the DPS) and the teachers. We also know there is money designated for the purposes of educating EVERY child in the DPS. We also know that sports are not mandated; but, free and appropriate public education is. So, it’s safe to assume that educating the children of this community is our number one priority, correct?  On this we can all agree, right?

So, the real issue at the heart of this disagreement is money.  We’ve already agreed our priority is the students of the DPS; obviously the disagreement before us as a community is HOW the money will be spent!  We’re not disagreeing money is VERY tight! We live in the state of Illinois! Seems like there are differing opinions as to HOW MUCH money there really is and in what funds the money exists; but, the bottom line is our priority. HOW will be the money be spent educating the students of DPS? How we spend money speaks our priorities.  If we look at our personal finances; we’d see where our personal priorities lie. How we spend our district’s money speaks our district’s priorities!

Let’s look at what appear to be the Board and Administration’s priorities for the students of DPS.  The Board prioritizes spending money on 4.78% raises for district administrators (including a 4 year, 6% raise each year for the Superintendent). The Board prioritizes buying land (after ignoring the Marshall’s land donation). The Board prioritizes building a sports complex as well as a new K-12 campus.

Now, let’s look at what appears to be the teacher’s union’s priorities. The Union prioritizes spending money on the staff who teaches our students. The reduction of 25 staff has resulted in significantly increased class sizes.  The teacher’s union prioritizes meeting the needs of all students including student with special needs who need more and not less individualized and specialized instruction and/or support.  The teacher’s union prioritizes having adequate and appropriate teaching tools including textbooks and supplies; and, up-to-date technology for the district’s students. The teacher’s union prioritizes adequate supervision for DPS student’s safety. The teacher’s union prioritizes being insured so they are healthy to teach. And, the teacher’s union prioritizes fair compensation for their efforts which led them to previously agree to a soft-salary freeze. The teacher’s prioritized the financial needs of the district.

What does this all say? I believe we need to question our Board’s priorities.  I’ll admit to a biased perspective. June, 2012 I retired as a 32 veteran Speech/Language Pathologist for Lee County Special Education Association (LCSEA). DPS is the primary consumer of LCSEA’s services.  I served the majority of my teaching career meeting the communication needs of Dixon preschoolers with special needs. You should also know; I retired three years early at a significant cost to my lifetime earnings and retirement benefits. I sought and paid for the early retirement option because I questioned the priorities of the Dixon Board of Education and its impact on the programs and services of LCSEA.

When I became a Speech/Language Pathologist; I chose to work in the public schools because I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children with communication challenges. For the first 29 years of my career; I believe I did that. Up until that time, I taught approximately 40 students each year.  My 30th year of teaching I went from teaching around 40 students to teaching around 60 students. (A Speech/Language Pathologist retired that year; she was one of the 25 teachers not replaced. Her students were divided between me and another Speech/Language Pathologist, Kathy Mayer who no longer works for the DPS).  That same year, Mr. Juenger became the Superintendent of DPS.

I spoke my concern to the administration at that time. I spoke my priorities. I spoke about meeting the needs of the children with special needs that I served. I was told; “you will teach 60 children” and I did; but I did so at a cost to my students and their families. There was simply no way I could do what I’d done for 40 students when I had 60 students.  I believed the students suffered; hence, my decision to retire early. I could no longer be a part of a system that was not prioritizing its students!

I know my teaching circumstances have not been the only teaching circumstances that have changed in the last 4 years and those changes have negatively impacted our students.  As a result; I have serious concern for all of the students of our community. I’m not the only teacher whose teaching and supervision responsibilities increased dramatically in these last four years. I’m not the only certified educator who was expected to do considerably more with considerably less staff, assistance, materials, and support.  Simply put; our teachers are being asked to do much more with much less!  So, I ask you, Dixon community. What are your priorities?  Highly paid administrators and a sports complex or our student’s education? How we spend our money speaks our priorities!

Cheri Stewart,

Former LCSEA Speech/Language Pathologist & Speech/Language Supervisor (1980-2012) and current Pastor of Prophetstown United Methodist Church