The president of the St. Mary’s public schools’ bus contractors association asked the school board for more monetary help during a Jan. 6 public hearing on the school system’s proposed budget.
Joseph Goldsborough, who was the only person to speak during the hearing, brought two bus drivers with him.
Goldsborough mentioned several concerns that he wanted to see addressed.
Drivers earn less than $20,000 a year, which he said is “poverty level.”
He noted that drivers work 5½ hours a day but must be on call “every minute school is in session,” which prevents them from getting a second job during the school year.
He said St. Mary’s bus drivers are only paid 88 cents per mile for bus maintenance, whereas drivers are paid 96 cents in Charles and 98 cents in Calvert.
Drivers are transporting 50 to 60 kids to and from school through congested roads while disciplining children in a contained area, he said, calling it “one of the most important jobs in the school system.”
The association’s 43 bus contractors are making “almost zero profit” and “with bad years, we can actually go into the hole.”
He noted a “fixed rate” of $4,944 that contractors get so they can pay for drivers’ Social Security, state and federal taxes, unemployment and workman’s compensation insurance. This is far less than Calvert’s $8,013 and Charles’ $11,000, he said.
Calls for increased pay to bus drivers have been going on for years in St. Mary’s.
The school board will hold a budget work session on Jan. 13 and approve its budget on Jan. 27. The proposed budget is $233 million, which is $2 million over the current budget.
During his report at the beginning of the meeting, Superintendent Scott Smith noted vaccination plans for school teachers and staff. They will be given shots for the COVID-19 virus in two-day vaccination clinics that will be held at the Hollywood firehouse or the Great Mills High School parking lot.
The clinics will be held when Gov. Larry Hogan (R) authorizes localities to proceed with the next phase of the vaccination plan, which includes educators and other school staff, and when the vaccines are available, Smith said. He added that the school system will host three vaccination clinics prior to each of three phases of the return to school.
Smith noted that 17 school staffers were diagnosed with COVID-19 last week when school was not in session, which he called “the worst week we’ve ever had” during the pandemic.