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School system officials respond to issues raised last month by school bus drivers

Concerns over compensation of Grady County School System school bus drivers raised last month were responded to by school officials Tuesday night.
At the Dec. 11, 2018 school board meeting, bus driver Robert Dykes spoke on behalf of a delegation of bus drivers.
Issues raised included the alleged lack of pay raises in more than 12 years; drivers not being paid for their regular route when they drive for field trips; and an allegation that Grady County pays less than five other school systems in Southwest Georgia.
Grady County School Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard requested school system finance officer Dan Broome “fact check” the allegations raised by Dykes and the bus drivers he represented.
The superintendent presented the findings to the school board members Tuesday night.
According to information provided by the school system’s finance officer, school bus drivers have received multiple raises over the last several years.
Increases to the base salary of bus drivers were made in 2007 (4 percent), 2008 (3 percent), 2009 (2.5 percent), 2017 (3 percent), and 2018 (2 percent).
Broome notes that the current salary range is $10,455.40 to $11,455.40 and drivers work an average of three hours per day.
Between 2010 and 2014, when other employees faced furlough days, bus drivers were not furloughed, but their local supplement was reduced by $150. It was fully restored in 2014 and in 2015 the local supplement was increased, based on years of experience, ranging from $1,000 to $2,000.
The superintendent noted that the allegations regarding lack of raises over the last several years were inaccurate.
“Could we do better? Absolutely, but I will tell you all of our non-certified personnel work for peanuts and we are looking at what we can do to improve that,” Dr. Gilliard said.
With regard to drivers not being paid for their regular route if they drive for field trips and substitute drivers are called in to run the regular daily route, Dr. Gilliard and Broome reported that four drivers had been docked over the past two years. However, the driver who lost the most money for not driving his route had lost $700, but earned $6,000 for the field trips he drove.
“Substitute drivers could be used exclusively for field trips if regular route drivers do not want to miss driving their regular route. Our first priority is to pick up and deliver children safely each day, field trips are extra,” the superintendent said.
School officials also debunked allegations that the local pay for bus drivers is the lowest in the region. Information provided by local districts in October indicated bus driver pay ranged from $12.01 per hour for a beginning driver to $23.42 per hour for drivers with 30 years of experience. The local pay range is $19.36 to $21.21 per hour.
“We appreciate what our bus drivers do and we are glad they do what they do,” newly elected school board chairman Jeff Worsham commented Tuesday night.
“We absolutely do. We couldn’t operate school without them,” Dr. Gilliard said.
In related news Tuesday, the board heard comments and concerns from Cherelle Anderson, mother of a 6-year-old child who was left unattended sleeping on a school bus by a driver who failed to check the bus after his morning route.
Ms. Anderson recounted her version of events from the Dec. 12 incident and she offered some recommendations to the board to prevent similar incidents in the future.
The mother suggested that younger children be required to sit at the front of the bus; each bus have bus monitors on board to assist drivers; enhanced communication; transportation director remind drivers to check buses for sleeping children at the end of each route; and require a verbal report each morning and afternoon from the drivers to the transportation director that no sleeping children were found on the bus.
Anderson was critical of the school superintendent’s response to her on the day of the incident. She was also critical of the bus driver whom she said did not report the incident to proper authorities or apologize to her child.
The board and superintendent will respond to Ms. Anderson’s concerns in 30 days.

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