Rocky Fork Enterprise

Board approves contract with bus drivers' union

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Gahanna's 49 bus drivers are set to receive similar terms as the school district's teachers in an agreement approved by the Gahanna-Jefferson Board of Education on Dec. 12.

The board unanimously approved a three-year contract, effective Jan. 1, 2014, through June 30, 2016, with the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 249.

In the first year of the contract, the drivers will receive a 1.5-percent increase in base salary, followed by a 1-percent increase in the second year and no increase on the base salary for the third year.

Similar to the district's contract approved in October for teachers, the agreement includes recognition pay if indicators are met on the state report card, treasurer Julio Valladares said.

Because the district earned an A on the indicators met on the state report card for the 2012-13 school year, all drivers who actually worked at least 120 days during the 2012-13 school year will receive a stipend of $180 in the second pay in January 2014.

The bonus pay will be $90 for subsequent years if the district earns an A on the 2013-14 and 2014-15 report cards. The drivers would receive the bonuses in the second pay after the report card is released.

Superintendent Francis Scruci thanked the union for a smooth negotiation process.

"Their jobs are as important as any other in the district, getting students to and from school safely," he said.

Tracey May, OAPSE president, said Dec. 10 was one of her most difficult days of driving a bus because of inclement weather.

"It was a rough day for everyone," she said. "We did it safely with no accidents."

May drives a route for special-needs students, so many of her stops are door to door.

"A special-needs girl jumped up on my bus and said, 'I knew you'd be here. I knew it,' " she said.

May said she was so stressed with the weather and being late, but the student's positive attitude lifted her mood.

"She was confident and just as excited she was right," May said.

Scruci said the district relies on local news stations to give a heads-up when inclement weather is coming.

He said the Dec. 6 forecast predicted impending bad weather.

"It did come at 4 p.m.," he said. "We have to decide by 5:30 a.m."

While Scruci and two other district employees were driving early Dec. 6, it was raining ice, he said.

"We looked at it as the prelude of what was coming," he said. "We watch the weather to see updates. The (bad) weather didn't come in until later than predicted.

"To the kids on Friday, we were heroes, but to the parents, not so much," he said. "We take that decision seriously. We can't educate kids if they're not in the classroom."

He said Tuesday (Dec. 10) was the opposite.

"It was supposed to be a dusting," he said. "We got up, and it was worse than we thought. Superintendents were communicating with each other. We have those conversations. The weather (forecast) said it would be clear by 7 a.m. We sent the buses out. Unfortunately, in central Ohio, it's difficult to drive in inclement weather when you're not used to it. There were a lot of delays and backups."

Scruci said the district makes the best guess it can.

"It's not an arbitrary decision," he said.

In other board business, Scruci recognized Gahanna Lincoln High School for being one of 477 districts in the United States and Canada for being named to the fourth annual AP (Advanced Placement) District Honor Roll.

Principal Dwight Carter said districts earn a place on the honor roll by increasing the number of students who take AP classes and improving the level of performance.

During the past couple of years, Carter said, the number of students taking AP history has increased dramatically.

"Our students are achieving at a high level, and more students are taking a risk to take high-level classes," he said. "If a student wants to take a class, I'm not the gatekeeper. Once they're in, they're in for the long haul. It has been a huge success."

Students who score a 3 or higher on AP tests may count the class toward college credit.

Carter said an AP economics class has been added to the curriculum.

Board member Jill Schuler said she remembered approving AP Chinese.

Carter said the high school offers AP in almost every area.

During the meeting, Scruci presented plaques to honor years of service for outgoing board members Dewitt Harrell, Scott Mounts and Claire Yoder.

The board also accepted the retirement resignations of Terry Green, Lincoln Elementary School first-grade teacher; Pamela Rippl, Chapelfield Elementary School first-grade teacher; Timothy Skamfer, High Point Elementary School fifth-grade teacher; and Susan Youmans, Middle School South physical education teacher. The retirements are effective at the end of the 2013-14 school year.

The board also set the 2014 organizational meeting to be held at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9, at Clark Hall, 380 Granville St., with the first regular meeting to follow at 6:30 p.m.

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