CAMERON — The Moore County Board of Education met Monday, February 13.
The board was given an update on the state of the school’s operations department by the new Executive Officer for Operations, Jenny Purvis, who had been in that position since January 3, following the leave of former executive officer John Birath. However, the presentation mainly focused on the transportation department.
“As we look at transportation, transportation is something I hear as I go from site to site, and I also hear from parents,” Purvis said. “We’ve identified some issues and just want to be very transparent about those issues.”
“One of the main problems is poor communication. That’s communication between our transportation department and parents and our transportation department and our schools, so we really identified the need to have good communication and increase that.”
Other areas identified were department efficiency, making the most out of what MCS has to offer, outdated mapping systems, incorrect information in systems, a need for creative solutions, and driver recruitment and retention.
Purvis listed a few positive steps forward – such as contracting a new mapping system, allowing additional paid time for drivers each week to go through potential communications, and posting to fill office vacancies – but she also stated that MCS would host three community input meetings planned for each area.
Area II will be on March 7 at Robbins Elementary from 6:30-8, Area I will be on March 14 at New Century MS from 6:30-8 and Area III will be on March 22 at Southern MS from 6:30-8.
“Returning Operational Excellence to Moore County Schools, whether it’s our bus transportation system, food service, maintenance, custodial, whatever, is a high priority for this board,” said Vice-Chair David Hensley.
Along with some of the other solutions, the board was presented with a School Bus Driver Recruitment and Retention Proposal to be piloted through the remainder of the school year.
“The first [idea] is that our drivers who have perfect attendance each month will receive a $50 bonus each month that they have perfect attendance,” said Superintendent Tim Locklair. “Many of our drivers currently have this, I believe about 60, and that shows how dedicated they are, showing up every day and driving those routes. They’d receive a $50 additional bonus each month with their pay. We’d estimate that to be a cost impact for the remainder of this year from $12,000-15,000.”
“Also, as part of this pilot proposal, we’d allot an additional $10 per day for drivers who are dual employees, which means maybe they’re a custodian at our schools and also drive our buses, or maybe they work in our cafeterias or are a teacher assistant,” continued Locklair. “We’d allot an additional $10 a day for divers that are dual employees and that drive AM and PM routes. That would be $200 per month and have a cost estimate anywhere, depending on hopefully if we recruit some more of our employees to join that, that would be an estimated cost from $36,000-$50,000.
“These initiatives are really about retaining our dedicated school bus drivers that show up to work each day, transporting our students safely to and from school. The initiative of dual employees is really about a strategy to show appreciation for our current dual employees that drive a school bus route on top of their other duties and to provide a recruitment initiative for other employees who currently hold a school bus drivers license or CDL to begin driving a route.”
The board approved the pilot program, although Hensley recommended that the school system should do more and proposed a 5% bonus rather than the flat amounts.
“[The pilot] is just a start,” Locklair said in response. “Can we do more? Sure. We didn’t have the opportunity to analyze [the impact of a 5% bonus] this week, but that’s something that we would commit to bringing back before the school board before the beginning of next school year. Is there another more aggressive proposal that we would put out there, like a 5%, or would we potentially propose a wage-scale adjustment that would incorporate whatever that cost impact would be into just paying our school bus drivers more per hour? But this is just a pilot.”
Finally, the board approved an endorsement to gather public comment for the 2024-25 School Calendar. The calendars will go out on March 15 to the public, and the responses will be brought back before the board on April 10.
“I am so hopeful that our general assembly steps up and stops this nonsensical requirement forcing North Carolina public schools to stand alone in the nation in carrying their fall semester over into January,” Hensley said. “Our students deserve, for their mental health and for suicide prevention, to be able to complete their midterms and tests and all the stressful things at the end of the semester, and then drop their pencils, drop their backpacks and take a mental health break and enjoy the holiday break with their families and friends without the stress of having to return to school to still take their midterms and whatnot.”
“I know our delegation is working hard to make that happen for all of Moore County, if not all of North Carolina, so I’m hopeful that they’re successful because this is nonsensical.”
The Moore County Board of Education will next meet March 13.