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Bus driver wages discussed

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Dickinson, 58602
The Dickinson Press
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Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Bus driver wages, especially those that only transport students a few miles, was just one of the topics discussed during a Dickinson Public Schools Collaborative Bargaining Team meeting Wednesday at the Central Administration Offices.

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Team member Butch Hrouda said there has been some concern over fairness of pay in situations where drivers only have a few miles to drive.

"The ones who have the most difficulty with the way the situation is handled are the ones that have the shortest routes," Hrouda said. "The mileage may be only two miles. Some of these people are spending their lunch break to pick up the bus, to check the bus, drive a mile to park the bus, drive a half a mile to drop the kids off to their activity, and they get paid 40 cents."

Hrouda suggested the first mile of driving could be a flat $20, with each mile after that conforming to the standard rate.

"That way it ensures that everyone is compensated for all the time they are putting in," Hrouda said. "Situations where this might occur might be junior high wrestling, football or field trips."

Payment for mileage is set at 20 cents per mile for drivers, DPS Superintendent Paul Stremick said.

School Board President Dean Rummel said more information regarding such short trips and discussions with the coaches and bus drivers is needed to be compiled for discussion at next month's meeting.

Staff professional development leave was also a topic of discussion.

Hrouda said while it appears there isn't a big problem with the system now, there could be improvements.

"There are situations where more information is needed to be given to the person who is applying for professional development leave," Hrouda said. "That's just in case other avenues need to be pursued. So what we're looking at is when applications are submitted, and it's rejected for some reason, that we get first of all some written response of the denial and second of all the reason for the denial."

Hrouda added that staff would also appreciate the response being done in a prompt manner.

Stremick said the professional development committee meets once a month.

"I don't see any problem with given a written response and having a quick turn around time," Stremick said. "With that committee what we've ended up saying is that if it's professional development and important we're paying for everything. If it's not then we're paying for nothing and no leave."

Stremick added that to his recollection, there hasn't been an appeal to a decision on professional development leave, and if there were, they would go to the superintendent for consideration.

More information regarding the use of professional development leave will be gathered and discussed at next month's meeting, the team decided.

Hrouda said feedback from the fractional leave pilot program at Heart River has been positive, however, some staff have asked if it would be possible to take off less time that the minimum set at two hours.

The fractional leave program piloted at Heart River allows for staff to take off one-fourth of the amount of time instead of a half day, or two hours minimum.

"If you go by our work day, two hours is almost a third," Hrouda said.

DPS business manager and director for personnel Vince Reep said in visiting with Heart River staff and secretaries, he felt that an hourly leave system could be implemented as well.

Using paraprofessionals as substitute teachers instead of finding outside substitutes was a concern, Hrouda said. Making a valid effort to find outside substitutes rather than relying on paraprofessionals within the school would be beneficial to the students.

"It's supposed to be a last resort, using paraprofessionals," Stremick said. "They aren't supposed to schedule the para without trying to call someone else in first."

Team member Brian Woehl said considering piloting the leave program at either Hagen Junior High or Dickinson High School would be beneficial to decide how well the program would work.

Set amounts for class sizes were suggested to be put on next month's agenda by Hrouda. Rummel said he felt that the board carefully monitors the class sizes and that it didn't need to be discussed during collaborative bargaining. Hrouda said he would take it off the agenda for next month if the board would seriously consider it during their regular meetings. Rummel said he appreciated the concern, and assured him the board will monitor the situation.

Items moved to next month's agenda include continual discussion of professional development leave, bus driver payment, an update on the fractional leave pilot project, salaries and staff emergency leave.

Next month's meeting of the DPS Collaborative Bargaining team will be held at 4 p.m., April 22, in the Central Administration Building.

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