Franklin Countys First News

School board discusses lack of bus drivers, substitute pay

The Regional School Unit 9 board.

FARMINGTON - The Regional School Unit 9 school board received an update from the Operations Committee Tuesday, discussing the district's struggles in hiring bus drivers and custodians.

Director Jeff Harris of New Sharon reported from the committee that RSU 9 was finding it difficult to keep driver and custodial positions filled. As a result, Harris and school officials said, some custodial duties were going undone on a regular basis in order to staff buses. RSU 9 hires people capable of serving both custodians and bus drivers.

"Some days, we're struggling with how to get the kids to school," Harris said.

One issue was the requirement that custodians also be able to operate buses, Harris said, in some cases limiting the pool of applicants. Another is the large discrepancy in pay for those positions between RSU 9 and surrounding districts. Those staffers make $13-plus per hour in RSU 9, per the terms of their new, three-year contract, while those same positions are paid $17 or $18 per hour in surrounding districts.

Superintendent Tina Meserve agreed that the pay discrepancy was a challenge for the district. Small annual increases did not close that regional pay gap if every district was providing them, Meserve noted, adding that there was a state and national shortage of bus drivers that created further demand.

"That's a challenge that I think we need to untangle in the future," Meserve said, adding that an employee was unlikely to stay with RSU 9 if they could drive 15 minutes and get paid an additional $4 per hour.

Meserve said that one issue was that the district had signed a new contract with those staffers in July, making further adjustments more complicated.

In other business, the board approved the dissolution of five policies, including one that limited substitute pay. The Arrangement for Professional Staff Substitutes policy limited substitute pay to $85 per day unless the substitute had a teaching certificate in the subject they were subbing. Meserve said that this was unlikely - people maintaining their certificates are generally teaching full-time and therefore unavailable - and it limited the district's ability to hire long-term substitutes for specialized positions, such as science teachers. In some cases, administrators noted, such substitutes were utilized to fill positions for which no suitable candidates were hired.

Meserve suggested that instead of a policy, she report to the board on substitute pay as part of the budget process.

While administrators are already working on department needs, budget workshops will begin on Jan. 29.


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55 Responses »

  1. Billyjoebob - your position is legitimate. We need to find a way to agree on how public education should work..

  2. Scott, if more of the powers to be had your attitude and applied that logic it would be a good start.
    Unfortunately what I have viewed in person and read is that so many of the people in charge know better than any of the " little " people. Feelings get hurt, chests get puffed and we end up with pretty much a lose lose situation.
    I really don't think it will ever change. People with your attitude didn't get it in school. It is genetic and learned at home. Thinking we can educate our way out of what we see on the front page daily realistically just isn't possible.
    Nice having you back on these threads.

  3. Billybob scott is one of the powers that be as far as our schools go. Hence his constant defending of the budget. What I would like to know is how much our budget will increase this year now that “issues” such as these have been found. I believe that drivers and custodians should make more than they are. So where will they find the money for the hardest working people in our district. Answer they will raise the budget by a couple million like last year and the rubber stampers will just ok it. Am I wrong Scott ?(probably). What i would like to see is no fluff in the budget and for things to actually be questioned by more than just a couple board members that are usually shot down by certain others on the board. Let’s see if this gets put up. It’s no where near as degrading or rude as some comments I’ve read on other news articles on the bd.

  4. If Mt. Blue High school was stopped being referred to as a "campus" maybe the powers that be would stop thinking it should be funded to the amount of liberal arts colleges that get their money from millionaire donors.

  5. The budget process is just beginning, I have no clue where it will end up.

    A reminder: though I'm on the school board any comments I make here are my personal opinion, I do not speak for the board! For me personally, the goal is to avoid any property tax increase. The problem is that discretionary money (e.g., expenses we can choose to fund or cut) isn't the major part of the budget. So much is driven by mandated costs. And if they go up, then unless the budget increases as well, there has to be cuts in discretionary spending. Compared to ten years ago, discretionary spending has overall been cut, even though the total budget has increased (due to mandated spending). That is very frustrating for everyone. I can tell you that the new Superintendent is a numbers person who already has shown a keen understanding of how the budget works, and has found (and is working to sovle) problems she inherited. I suspect/hope that the process this year gives you a pleasant surprise.