RAEFORD — The Hoke County Board of Education met Tuesday, November 8, where they voted to approve a pay increase and bonus pay for certain HCS employees.
The first approval by the board was a $0.25 raise for all HCS bus drivers.
“Hoke County Schools continues to experience staffing shortages with our school bus drivers due to the amount of time required for an employee to obtain their bus license, the backlog of our staff being trained, and the state labor shortage,” said Financial Officer Wannaa Chavis. “Current bus drivers are taking on additional routes, and routes are being retasked to ensure students are getting to and from school. We also recognize the loyalty of our current bus drivers. We are proposing a $0.25 cents per hour raise for all bus drivers.”
According to Chavis, the current bus driver salary range starts at $15.00 per hour – due to the state-mandated pay increase – and the projected cost of this hourly increase is $30,000.00 and will be effectively backtracked to October 14, 2022.
“We looked at an amount that we could afford with transportation because we have to be able to afford to continue not only paying their hourly rate, we also have to keep our buses on the road,” Chavis said. “Transportation funding pays for the repair of buses and everything dealing with transportation. So looking at that and Social Security, retirement, hospitalization, that’s the minimum we could probably afford at this time.”
Along with that, the board also approved a retention bonus for all applicable HCS employees.
“As we continue to experience staffing shortages associated with the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and the state labor shortage, Hoke County would like to recommend a retention bonus for employees,” Chavis said. “While there are many factors that influence staff retention, such as workplace environment, a sense of appreciation, and inclusion in the decision-making process, compensation is a critical factor in the retention process. Due to staff shortages and vacancies related to the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, staff members have assumed multiple responsibilities and assignments, such as driving multiple routes, providing services at several schools each day, and providing instruction to multiple classes. As a result of the additional duties used to maintain regular and substantive educational interaction with students, we would like to offer a retention bonus to all of our full-time and part-time permanent employees.”
According to Chavis, a permanent full-time and permanent part-time employee, if employed on or before October 1, 2022, and still employed on January 13, 2023, will receive a bonus of $1,200.
If an employee is employed between October 3 and November 14 of this year and is still employed on January 13, 2023, they will receive a stipend of $600.
Temporary employees, such as substitutes, bus monitors, tutors, and retirees, must be employed on January 13, 2023, and work a minimum of 30 days to receive a $600 bonus.
All the amounts will be paid out in January of 2023.
Finally, the board approved the school improvement plans for all 14 schools for the 2022-23 school year.
“In September, we had our school administrators present their school improvement plans,” said Executive Director of Federal Programs and School Improvement Dr. Erica Fortenberry. “As we understand, School Improvement Plans are more than just a plan but a framework for change. In their plans, they identified their school destinations, the decision making, and the action that they are going to take along with stakeholders to ensure they improve their academic performance.”
According to Fortenberry, all 14 schools outlined three topics they were going to focus on for the upcoming school year, and the similar trends among all the schools were Social and Emotional Learning and Safety, Core Instruction and Improving Academic Instruction, and Relationships.
The Hoke County Board of Education will next meet December 13.