Ava R-1 School Board Approves Increased Mileage Reimbursements for Bus Drivers, Declines to Also Raise Driver Base Pay

Michael Boyink/Herald Two Ava R-1 Summer School students are dropped off to waiting parents last Friday on Route 14 east of Ava. The Ava School Board recently voted to increase the bus driver’s mileage reimbursement for paved and dirt miles driven. A motion to increase the bus driver base pay by 6% - requested by the bus drivers - failed.

by Michael Boyink /mike@douglascountyherald.com

The Ava R-1 School Board convened for their regular monthly meeting last Thursday, June 20. 

In the only portion of the meeting marked by any discussion, the Ava R-1 School Board did not pass a motion to increase bus driver base pay and mileage rates by 6%. The motion was made by board newcomer Dan Johnson and was immediately seconded by Deana Parsick.

“We’re so divided between the school, the board, and the community,” said Johnson. “We need to try and put this away. Our kids are watching us. They are hearing teachers talk about it, hearing about it on the bus, they hear about it from their parents. We’re not setting much of an example.” 

His main concern was that bus driver pay had not kept pace with Ava teacher and staff pay, and didn’t feel the increases recommended by the recent TransPar report were enough. 

“That doesn’t come up to much of anything,” Johnson said. “Over the last four years, the bus drivers have gotten a 2% raise total, while the rest of the staff got 10%.”

He distributed a document that compared bus driver compensation and school teacher compensation, with data going back to the 2007/2008 school year. 

Between 2007/2008 and 2018/2019, bus driver base pay increased a total of 14.6%, while teacher salary over that same time period increased 33%. Mileage reimbursement increases over that time period were 13.2% for paved and 12.2% for dirt. 

While Johnson highlighted the pay history for the bus drivers, board member Deana Parsick had data that showed how much of that income the bus drivers actually keep.

“Since I came on the School Board the misconception in town has been that the bus drivers make $40K, $60K, $70K,” added Deana Parsick. “Everyone knows what I do for a living. I do the taxes for a third of the Ava bus drivers. I got their permission to share with you how much income they get, and how much is left after expenses.”

Parsick’s document had data for six bus drivers, showing approximate income from 2018. Total income ranges were from $26K to $47K, averaging $36.6K. 

Profit after factoring for expenses ranged from $2.7K to $18.7K, averaging $10.5K.

“This needs to go away,” said Parsick. “We need to do what’s right. We need to do what’s fair. For everyone. When you  talk about student safety, the bus drivers have a lot to do with student safety. They pick our kids up safely. They get them back home safely. They take a great responsibility in doing that. I believe they need to be rewarded for that. ”

Board member Mark Henry had some concerns about the TransPar study. 

“We don’t know from the report what the average overall budget for a Missouri school is,” Henry said. “And for the schools they are comparing us to, it doesn’t show their overall operating budget. Maybe their budget is higher.”

“I agree with you that the drivers are an important part of the school,” he continued. “But we have a study that we partnered on and paid $5K for. It says the drivers are fairly compensated except for the longer routes. It just seems like we should do what the study recommends.”

Johnson disagreed. “Us giving them 6% is a pin-prick compared to the damage we do to our  community and our school by not giving them 6%.”

In a vote, Johnson’s motion for a 6% across-the-board raise in base pay, dirt miles and paved miles failed 5-2. 

Johnson and Parsick voted in favor, while Fleetwood, Henry, Ellison, Stewart, and Stanifer voted against. 

Michael Stewart followed up the failed motion with another to follow Dr. Dials recommendation to implement the mileage increases suggested by the Trans-Par study. 

This would increase bus driver mileage compensation from $2.65 to $2.77 (4.6%) per dirt mile and $1.88 to $1.97 (4.6%) per paved mile.

Kenny Fleetwood seconded. There was no further discussion. The motion passed 5-0. Kenny Fleetwood, Mark Henry, Bart Ellison, Michael Stewart and Brandi Stanifer voted in favor, while Dan Johnson and Deana Parsick abstained.

(Editor’s note: The entire bus driver pay discussion can be heard in the school board meeting video posted to the Herald’s YouTube channel. It starts around the 26:00 mark.)

The complete meeting notes – including staffing decisions made during a closed session, reports from staff members, and other action items are as follows:

Closed Session:

Resignations/Retirements:

Richelle Petit

Recommendations (new hires into existing positions):

Cynthia Myer, who has experience working with special needs students will fill the role of Richelle Petit.

Other Approvals:

Lyndsey Wade as part-time nurse working 15 hours a week.

Brook Melton – extend extra contract days from 10 to 20.

Chris Sacco – 3% stipend for Middle School Jazz Band.

Ashley Forrest – Head Coach for Middle School Girl’s Basketball.

Mindy Pinckney – Assistant Coach for Middle School Girl’s Basketball.

Cynthia Carnall – High School Key Club.

Open Session

At 6:30 p.m. the board began the open session. 

Elementary School

Principal Dr. Clint hall reported summer school attendance was up this year over last with 168 students currently.

High School

Principal Dr. Nash reported 163 students in the program, more than they’ve had for over 5 years. 

Middle School and Special Services

While Middle School Principal Marcella Swatosh and Special Services Director Erin Swofford were listed on the agenda provided by the school, neither provided a verbal report during the School Board meeting. 

Documents provided before the meeting indicate that Special Services has 21 summer students, and Middle School has 115.

Maintenance 

Maintenance Director Monty Valentine reported that the maintenance building roof would be ready for tin next week, and that the maintenance staff was roughly halfway through their current list of projects to ready the school for next season.

Superintendent Report

Dr. Jason Dial provided updates on:

Mental Health Services

The offices for on-site mental health services have been painted and readied for staff. In the past students had to leave campus for these services.

Bus Inspections

Dr. Dial commented on the recent bus inspection data provided by the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Overall he felt like the inspections went better this year than they did a year ago, regardless of what the numbers might have indicated.

State Revenue

The school received it’s final payment from the state for the 2018/2019 school year. Dial felt “very comfortable” with the financial position of the school. 

Assistant Superintendent Report

Aaron Dalton reported on a few unique things for the year:

Writing Consortium

The Ava Schools were contacted by the state to offer select K-5th grade students to take part in a writing consortium. Student representatives from each grade levels would travel to Columbia to meet with peers from five other districts and share ideas and lessons.

A+ Program

Ava is allowing students to log required tutoring hours during summer school this year.

Community Health Fair

On August 3rd, different groups and organizations will gather to provide resources and activities for Ava students. Details will be provided as the date nears.

Action Items Approved Unanimously Without Discussion

During the meeting the Board unanimously approved a number of issues without any discussion by board members.  These included:

Maxim Healthcare Services Contract – this is a yearly contract which provides medical services to students requiring full-time assistance while in school.

Agreement and Amendment with DSS, MO Healthnet and Ava R-I – this allows Ava R-1 to bill Medicaid for occupational therapy services and a portion of the Maxim services for students.

Budget Amendments for 2018-2019 School Year – changing proposed amendments to last years budget to actual amendments.

Resolution for Fund 4 Transfer – This gives Dr. Dial permission to transfer money from one fund to another.

MSBA 2019A Update – Required by the USDA, this updated the school discrimination and harassment policy.

2019-2020 Salary Schedule and Benefits – this raised the base pay for teachers from $31,400 to $31,575. It also increased health care reimbursement to cover a rise in the cost of healthcare coverage for teachers. 

2019-2020 Section 125 Renewal – this allows staff to pay healthcare and dental costs with pre-tax dollars.

2019-2020 Bus Drivers – this was approving the current list of bus drivers.

Adopt 2019-2020 Fiscal Budget

Adopt 2019-2020 Lunch Pricing Hunger Free Calculation – prices will stay the same as last year at $1.85/meal.

Adopt 2019-2020 Milk Prices – Extra milk prices will stay the same at $.40.

Authorization for Superintendent to Approve July Bills – this allows Dr. Dial to pay bills and let the School Board skip meeting during July.

Schedule Tax Rate Hearing – this will be held at 6:15 p.m. during the regular School Board meeting on August 15th.

Attendance

Board members present for this meeting were Deana Parsick, Brandi Stanifer, Michael Stewart, Bart Ellison, Mark Henry, Dan Johnson and Kenny Fleetwood.

Video

The video from this meeting is available on douglascountyherald.com and on our YouTube channel

Next Meeting

The next regular board meeting is Thursday, August 15th at 6:30 p.m. in the board of education room on the school campus. Meetings are open to the public.