By Greg Bird
Hopes to attract new drivers to fill shortage
Facing a shortage of bus drivers the McCreary County Board of Education voted for a $1.35 per hour raise for drivers Monday night, but at least one Board member wondered if there were other options than a raise to solve the problem.
The Board was discussing a revision to the District’s salary schedule, which included the raise for all drivers, trainers, mechanics and Bus Garage Secretary.
It was noted the District, as well as Districts across Kentucky, are faced with a critical driver shortage. As a result the local district has had to double up bus routes to accommodate the students, leading to having paid over $27,000 in overtime for the year.
The proposed raise would cost the District about $45,000 in additional salary for the remainder of the year, but officials feel it will allow the District to attract new driver to fill the missing routes and would significantly cut down on overtime.
Board member Lori Foster questioned the raise, noting the Board had already approved raises for the drivers twice before in the past 9 months. She stated that when discussing the last raise it was said it would help attract new drivers as well, but that apparently did not seem to solve the problem.
She suggested alternate means of making the position more desirable, such as sign-on bonuses and retention bonuses. “My concern is the raise may not fix the problem,” she said.
Superintendent Corey Keith said those were options that would be considered, but felt the raise was the best option for the short term as it would raise the starting salary for new drivers to $13 per hour, more on par with other districts in the state.
Transportation Supervisor Stuart Shepherd noted the District already offers incentives for new drivers, such as paying for their background checks and training to get their commercial drivers license, but said he felt there also should be some sort of contract for new hires – preventing them from getting the training and leaving for a new job. He noted one case where a driver went through the training at the District’s expense and left for a better paying job after two days.
Shepherd said the District currently has 44 bus routes, but only 33 drivers available, causing the need to double up routes and leading to longer rides for some students.
Foster, along with the rest of the Board, voted to approve the raise, but asked for Keith and Shepherd to come up with alternative plans to solve the driver shortage in the coming months.
Also included in the package was a 25-cent per hour raise for cooks in the District.
Board member Debbie Gibson, who has long advocated for better pay for those positions, said she was grateful for the increase but promised to keep fighting for more.
In other actions Monday the Board honored the MCHS Forestry team who placed sixth in national competition last month, WCE student Kyler Mason who was selected to perform in the All-State Chorus and PKE Principal Rebecca Blakley, who was chosen to represent the District in the Kentucky Women in Education Leadership forum.
The Board also heard from a concerned citizen, Stephanie Spradlin, who stated she was speaking for other parents when she asked about the funding for athletic teams in the District. Mrs. Spradlin asked if teams received equal funding.
Athletic Director Robert Jones stated all teams are on a rotation for new uniforms every few years, and if a team asks for funding he has never turned them down.
Spradlin said representative from basketball team at Pine Knot Elementary felt “afraid” to ask for funding, and had to rely on fundraising for their season.
Jones and Keith both said they would look into the issue, but reiterated that funding is available if the teams ask for it.
The Board will next meet in regular session on December 16 at 6:30 p.m.