Ava R1 School Board: Pay Raise Comments, Bus Route Re-listed, New Driver Contracts Approved

Board and Drivers Agree on Bus Camera Terms

by Michael Boyink / mike@douglascountyherald.com

The Ava R-1 School board met for it’s regularly scheduled meeting on July 16th. 

The meeting had four significant portions:

  • Board explanations of the recent bus driver pay raises
  • A public address to the board by Wayne Cipriano
  • Approval of new contracts with the bus drivers to include the use of bus cameras
  • A preview of four different return to school scenarios.

Driver Pay Raise Comments

Two board members commented on the recent bus driver pay raise and some of the reactions both on social media and local television news.

Board member Dan Johnson led off by separating out the fund balance discussion from the Consent Agenda that it normally is voted in as part of.

During the discussion of the fund balances, Johnson provided some numbers. 

“We just voted to give the drivers and teachers a raise,” he said. “At that time we were told we had $120,000 in the black. Turns out we have $535,000 in the black. We didn’t break the bank when we gave those raises. We gave teachers 1.3% of our entire school budget and we gave the bus drivers a half percent of entire school budget. If you take away the money we’ll get back for selling the bus route, we only gave the bus drivers .27% of our entire budget. The state considers having 20% of your operating funds on hand as healthy. We’re at 26.3% on hand. We have $3.6 million in reserve. Even if we lost $1 million of those reserves, we’d still have 19% of our budget on hand.”

Johnson believed the school could afford the raises. “We are financially healthy,” he said.

Later in the meeting, Board President Lowell Strong also presented information about the recent raises.

“We increased teacher pay and bus driver pay by a combined total of about $49,000 more than what Dr. Dial was going to recommend. Once you subtract out the amount the school will get from the sale of Bus Route one, it amounts to a difference of .0035% to the school.”

Cipriano Addresses the Board

Douglas County resident Wayne Cipriano addressed the board about the importance of planning a safe return to school for area students.

“Reopening will probably require some sort of faculty and student screening on a daily basis,” he said. “Likely temperature checks. But this assumes that temperature spikes before COVID-19 can be spread, which is unproven. But even it that’s true, the test results are useless if not quickly and accurately reported.”

Cipriano further questioned what would be done with students or staff who had show a fever. “Do we send students home? Who drives them there? Who supervises them once they get there?”

Cipriano asked what actions would be taken after a temperature spike – questioning if the school be disinfected, would other staff or students be quarantined, etc.

“You who are on the school board must come in with a plan,” he said, “It will have to prioritize health and safety well above everything else including educational excellence. We cannot adopt a wait and see posture while COVID-19 invades our schools. We are all depending on you to make this monumental decision correctly.”

The board then worked through some action items.

All Bidders for Bus Route #1 Rejected

Lowell Strong moved to reject all bidders for the bus route recently put up for sale by the school. “We just didn’t do it the right way,” he explained. 

The motion carried 5-2, with Johnson, Parsick, Tredway, Strong, and Henry in favor. Ellison and Stanifer voted against.

Re-advertise Route, Vet Applicants Better

The board then moved to re-advertise Bus Route #1, with a more stringent interview and vetting process for applicants with the use of a rubric or scoring guide. 

The motion passed 4-2. Ellison and Henry were against, Stanifer abstained, and Strong, Tredway, Parsick and Johnson were in favor.

New Contract to Include Bus Cameras

The board moved to approve a new contract with the bus route owners. The new contract would clarify legal issues around the use of school-owned bus cameras on privately-owned buses. 

According to board member Troy Tredway, the contract also clarifies employment arrangement between the two parties. “Knowing if you are a contractor or employee is a big deal when it comes tax time,” he said. “If you think you are a contractor but the IRS finds that you are an employee, you are on the hook for back taxes, and more. The new contract makes it clearer that the bus drivers are contractors and not bound to language in school employee materials.”

Board member Mark Henry was disappointed that the board didn’t receive the new contract until 10 a.m. the day of the board meeting. “I was outside all day and didn’t have a chance to read it.”

As the discussion went on the board found language to clarify around payment of the bus drivers for bringing their bus in for camera-related issues, and policy around who needed to or could view the video footage in different situations. 

After two motions that were recalled in order to modify the contract, the third motion to approve the new contracts passed 4-3, with Parsick, Johnson, Tredway, and Strong voting for and Ellison, Stanifer and Henry voting against. 

The Herald will post copies of the updated contract as soon as they are publicly available.

Return to School

Ava Schools Superintendent Dr. Jason Dial and Assistant Superintendent Aaron Dalton presented the school’s “working copy” outlining different levels for how the school will serve students in the fall.

Level 1: All classes will take place in school buildings:

There are no restrictions on visitors and volunteers in the building.

Level 2: Seated School with Health Precautions: 

All classes will take place in school buildings. Extra cleaning and safety protocols for staff and students will be followed. There are restrictions on parents, visitors, and volunteers in the building.

Level 3: Blended Instruction: 

Courses will be taught with a combination of seated and remote instruction. Staff will be in buildings, with students alternating days of in-person attendance and remote instruction. Protocols for staff and students will be followed according to building COVID-19 Re-entry Guidelines. All entrances to schools will be locked and restricted to staff and students. Other visitors and volunteers must receive pre-approval. 

Level 4: Remote Instruction: 

All staff will be on campus (unless directed otherwise). All students will be off campus and receive instruction online using Google Classroom. Teachers will use tools such as email, Zoom, Class Dojo and Remind to communicate with students and families. Accommodations and arrangements will be made for students without internet access. All buildings will be closed to students.

According to the plan, Ava will not be starting school in Level 1. 

Families will have the option of seated in-person learning or virtual learning from home. The school posted a survey form for parents, accessible from the School’s Facebook page.

Closed Session:

During closed session, the board handled a number of HR related issues:

Katherine Pierson was hired as CNA Instructor/Nurse.

Lindsey Wade was moved from part-time nurse to a full-time nurse.

Melissa Lawler hired as a part-time Process Coordinator.

Mr. Dalton’s salary was increased to $105,000.

Video

A video recording of the meeting is posted on the Herald’s YouTube channel. Note that due to technical difficulties the video has portions missing.

Next Meeting

The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be on August 20th. Meetings are held in the Board of Education room and are open to the public.