Former district teacher Steve Joyce made an impassioned plea to the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education on Monday night urging the board to consider higher pay for bus drivers. Since retiring from teaching, Joyce has been employed as the Gillespie Public Library librarian and also drives a full bus route for the school district.
Joyce alleged the difficulty the district has had in attracting and retaining drivers is due primarily to a low wage scale.
“You have a shortage of bus drivers and substitutes, and you can’t operate a school district without them,” Joyce said. He said he has seen bus drivers “come and go” during his tenure as a driver and that the main reason for drivers leaving is money. “The only way to get more bus drivers is you have to jack up the pay.”
“The most responsible people in the entire district is not the superintendent or the principals,” he said. “It’s the bus drivers.,” Bus drivers, he said, are responsible for the health and safety of students riding the bus. “The salary these people have is not equitable” with what they do. According to Joyce, CUSD 7 bus drivers earn $17 per hour. With minimum wage set to increase to $15 as of Jan. 1, he said the wages bus drivers earn will barely exceed minimum wage.
Apart from passing a background check, bus drivers must have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), with both a bus endorsement and school bus endorsement. Additionally, they are required to take a refresher course every year.
Board President Mark Hayes thanked Joyce for his comments but gave no indication regarding whether or not the board will take up Joyce’s recommendations.
Following an hour-long executive session to discuss personnel and other issues, the board voted unanimously to accept “with regret” the retirement of BenGil Elementary teacher Sharon Wernle, effective at the end of the 2023-24 school year. Board members also agreed to post vacancies for two BenGil Elementary teachers and a Middle School counselor.
Based on administrator recommendations, the board voted to rehire district coaching staff for the 2021-22 school year as follows:
- High School Football: Jake Bilbruck, head coach; Casey Sholtis; Jarrod Herron; and volunteer assistant coaches Korben Clark and Nate Henrichs.
- High School Golf: Stuart Ringer.
- High School Volleyball: Celia Jubelt, head coach, and assistant coach Shelsie Timmermeier.
- High School Cheerleading: Jennifer Brown, head coach, and volunteer assistant coach Darian Gill.
- High School Dance: Andrea Williamson, head coach.
- High School Scholar Bowl: Jarrod Herron.
- High School Girls’ Basketball: Kevin Gray, head coach, and assistant coach Nikki Brawner.
- High School Boys’ Basketball: Casey Sholtis, head coach; Matt Brawner and Dan Edgerton, assistant coaches; and volunteer assistant coach Jake Kellebrew.
- High School Girls Softball: Michelle Smith, head coach; Jim Matesa, assistant coach; and volunteer assistant coach Joe Kelly.
- High School Boys’ Baseball: Jeremy Smith, head coach; Tim Wargo, assistant coach; and volunteer assistant coaches Adam Tallman and Dan Smith.
- High School Boys Track: Mike Bertagnolli, head coach; and Jarrod Herron, assistant coach.
- High School Girls’ Soccer: Robin Niemeyer, head coach; and Page Niemeyer, assistant coach.
- High School Yearbook Sponsor: Mary Kirk.
- Middle School Boys’ Baseball: Jeremy Smith, head coach; and Tim Wargo, assistant coach.
- Middle School Girls’ Softball: Michelle Smith, head coach; and Jim Matesa, assistant coach.
- Seventh Grade Boys’ Basketball: Tim Wargo.
- Eighth Grade Girls’ Volleyball: Celia Jubelt.
- Seventh Grade Girls’ Volleyball: Elizabeth Thackery.
- Middle School Boys’ Track: Jill Strole.
- Middle School Girls Track: Chase Peterson.
- Middle School Scholar Bowl: Kyle Lamore.
- Middle School Cheer Coach: Victoria Spencer.
In other personnel action, the board accepted the resignation of Andrea Williamson as high school prom sponsor and posted the position as vacant, accepted the resignation of Stuart Ringer as eighth-grade boys’ basketball coach and posted the vacant position, accepted the resignation of Jack Burns as head coach for the varsity girls track and field team and freshman football coach, and posted both positions as vacant, and accepted the resignation of middle school paraprofessional Nikki Katich and posted the vacancy. The board also voted unanimously to post vacancies for a high school cross county coach, a one-on-one BenGil Elementary aide and a high school paraprofessional.
Board members voted unanimously to hire John VanDoren as a half-route bus driver, pending his passing a routine background check.
Board President Hayes announced a special meeting of the board set for 6 p.m., Monday, June 14, in part to provide an opportunity for the board to address several issues that require action before the next regularly scheduled meeting. Among the issues likely to be discussed and voted upon are hiring a district transportation director and approval of curriculum changes to take effect during the 2021-22 school year.
STUDENT HANDBOOK AND FEES
In separate actions, the board approved student fees for the 2021-22 school year as well as changes to the student handbook governing student behavior and expectations for the coming school year.
Student fees are virtually unchanged from the previous year except for the addition of a $10 per credit hour charged to students taking dual credit courses offered through Lewis and Clark Community College, and the addition of fees for damaged or lost laptop computers. Under the newly approved fee schedule, students will be responsible for $50 for a damaged laptop, $25 for a lost or damaged charger, and $489 for a lost laptop. Students also are responsible for a $75 textbook rental fee and a $50 technology fee.
As in the past year, lab fees for most Gillespie High School classes that require a fee are $25 with the exception of driver’s education for which the fee is $100. Parking stickers for high school students are $60. Agenda books or handbooks are $5 at all grade levels. Gillespie Middle School students are responsible for a $10 Constitution book.
Athletes will pay $30 for each school-funded sport in which they participate with a $120 per family cap.
Student lunches will be $2.30 and breakfasts will be $1.60, with reduced-price meals available for qualifying students of 40 cents and 30 cents, respectively. Students qualifying for reduced-price meals also may qualify for textbook/lab fee waivers.
Handbook revisions include error corrections and additions of policies previously committed.
The board approved the sale of surplus district properties to Shannon Johnson and Lance Hammann, both of whom were the apparent high bidders to purchase two separate residential lots in the 800 block of Francis Street. Purchase prices for the real estate were not disclosed. The lots were acquired by the school district as a result of a gift and were declared as surplus property last month.
The board voted to place on file for public inspection an amended budget for the current fiscal year. Board members are expected to take action on approving the amended budget at next month’s regular meeting of the board. Supt. Shane Owsley said the budget revision was necessitated by the district’s receipt of federal Educational System Reform funds—part of the federal government’s COVID-19 relief funds for school districts. By law, the district must budget for the expenditure of the unexpected funds, which has necessitated the creation of an amended budget.
The amended budget will be available for public review in the district administrative office for 30 days.
Owsley said he will present a detailed overview of the new funds and how they will be spent during the June meeting of the board.
Board members voted unanimously to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the Litchfield School District to designate Litchfield as the host district for a boys’ soccer cooperative program. Under the agreement, Litchfield will serve as the host school through the 2022-23 school year. Owsley said the move is justified due to the fact that Litchfield has a higher number of team participants than Gillespie. As the host school district, Litchfield will host practice sessions and home game competitions.
In other action, the board voted unanimously to accept a quote from DeLaurent Asphalt, Wilsonville, to reseal and or repair several parking areas and voted to raise the limit on a district credit card account from $5,000 to $7,500. The increase ostensibly allows the district to make monthly debit card payments in connection with a newly implemented long-distance learning project. Board member Jenni Alepra, a branch manager for United Community Bank, suggested investigating whether or not the grant administrator will accept automatic debit payments. The automatic deductions, she noted, would be more secure.