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School Board meets, bus drivers needed

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

The Pulaski County School Board met Tuesday with several items on the agenda for consideration.

The meeting began with a moment of silence to honor Franky Warden, who recently died after driving a school bus for 37 years.

Periodically, Pulaski County has difficulty filling bus driver positions.

“There’s always an ebb and flow but now we’re in one of the lowest spots we’ve ever been,” said Jess Shull, Director of Operations for Pulaski County schools. “We need bus drivers.”

According to Shull, bus drivers work an average of four hours a day for a morning and evening shift. Starting times depend on the length of the bus route but Shull said that most drivers start their day between 7 and 7:30 a.m. Those with longer routes start rolling around 6:45 a.m.

Drivers return to school for their afternoon routes between 2:45 p.m. and 3 p.m. Shull says that 90 percent of the bus drivers are off the road by 5 p.m. but those with very long routes may be driving past five.

Generally, bus drivers are free between 9 a.m. and 2:45 every week day and they work 181 days out of the year.

“I got a bus driver with 60 years’ experience,” said Shull. “He started driving a bus when he was a junior in high school. When you could. You can’t do that anymore.”

These days, drivers must be 21 years old and they must obtain a Class B Commercial Driver’s License. The good news for prospective drivers is that the county will pay for this series of driving lessons.

To attain certification, an individual must take three eight-hour classes for three Saturdays in a row. Drivers are also required to spend 24 hours on the bus which occurs intermittently between routes. In all, it takes about a month to get certified as a school bus driver.

Bus drivers receive $72.68 per day for their labor. Those with 12 or more years of experience earn $83.70 per day. There are no benefits associated with working as a bus driver in Pulaski County.

In other matters, the board voted to approve the schedule for the upcoming school year. School will begin for all students Wednesday, Aug. 14, which is the same date the current school year began. Pre-K, sixth and ninth-graders will have an orientation day with a two-hour early release Tuesday, Aug. 13. Five calendar days in the next school year will be marked as makeup days.

This year’s graduation ceremony is set for 8 p.m. Friday, May 24, at Pulaski County High School.

The board voted unanimously to renew the contract of Pulaski County School Superintendent Dr. Kevin Siers. The board voted to extend Siers’ contract for four years, the maximum allowed by state law, at a salary of $136,350 annually. Dr. Siers will also receive a $750 monthly vehicle allowance. According to salary.com, the average school superintendent salary is $155,545 annually.

The school superintendent is in charge every aspect of the Pulaski County school administration.

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