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School board approves incentive to attract, retain substitute bus drivers

BUCKHANNON – A proposal to approve a promissory note for substitute bus operators passed unanimously during Tuesday’s Upshur County Board of Education meeting at Buckhannon Academy Elementary School.

Tuesday’s meeting marked the second time the item has appeared on the BOE’s agenda. It had been tabled at the Nov. 13 meeting because both board president Dr. Tammy Samples and board member Kristi Wilkerson were absent due to illness.

The Upshur County School system has been facing a deficit in substitute bus operators and has been searching for a way to attract and retain more operators – as the school system currently has only one substitute bus operator.

The shortage resulted in transportation department mechanics and school maintenance employees transporting children to and from school; those employees are all trained and certified as bus operators.

The school system had banners made and displayed on county school buses advertising that Upshur County was hiring substitute bus operators.

They also had the idea to offer payment to substitute bus operators for their 52 hours of training time, should they dedicate a certain amount of time to working in the school system – an idea they borrowed from the Harrison County School System.

A promissory note is a document containing a written promise to pay a stated sum to a certain person or entity – in this case, substitute bus drivers – at a specified date.

Originally, the proposal was to offer those completing the substitute bus operator training of 52 hours a set amount of $1,500 after nine months of employment with the Upshur County Board of Education.

However, after the proposal was tabled at the Nov. 13 board meeting, Upshur County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sara Lewis Stankus met with current bus operators to review the policy. The bus operators requested that the payment for the 52 hours of training be calculated at the rate of Pay Grade D with zero years of experience per hour for each of the 52 hours of training.

Also, based on bus drivers’ input, the time of required employment was changed from nine months to one year from the date of hire before the promissory note would be paid.

“They (the current bus operators) wanted two changes to the promissory note,” Stankus said. “One was they wanted the pay grade D with zero years – that would be what we would compensate bus drivers for the 52 hours for. The second thing was they wanted to change the time from nine months to one year from the date of hire.

“So, they said if someone was trained in October, we will hold them accountable until the following October,” Stankus added. “They thought that was fair to expect someone to work for us for one full working year.”

Upshur County Board of Education members, superintendent Dr. Sara Stankus  and assistant superintendent Dr. Debra Harrison pose for a photo with Buckhannon Academy Elementary School Student Council Members who welcomed guests and served as guides during Tuesday’s board meeting held at the school.

During an interview with My Buckhannon following the passage of the promissory note, Upshur County Schools Director of Transportation Randy Hardman said the promissory note’s passage can’t hurt in helping recruit more substitute bus drivers in the county.

“When we got the banners and put them on the busses, advertising that we were hiring, we received about 10 or 12 applications,” Hardman said. “Those are just applications until we look into them, but that is still 10 or 12 we didn’t have before.”

Hardman said he thinks once people hear about the extra pay for the training time, they’ll agree it’s a good idea, undergo the training and stay with the BOE to receive the incentive after one year.

“Most people who apply, if they are not retired, are unemployed,” he said. “This will help.”

Also, during Tuesday’s meeting, board members unanimously approved the following personnel recommendations:

-Courtney Stafford as first-grade teacher at Union Elementary, effective when a certified replacement is found.

-Correction to resignation date for Tonya Norman, itinerant aide/educational sign language interpreter at Union Elementary, effective at the end of the day of Oct. 26.

-Correction to resignation date for Jessica Grose as cook at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School, effective at the end of the day of Oct. 25.

-Kristy Spencer from special education aide at French Creek Elementary School to cook at Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School, effective Nov. 28.

The next Upshur County BOE meeting is slated for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 11 at Union Elementary School.

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