School Board approves pay increase for bus drivers

The Aiken County School Board approved unanimously a pay increase for district bus drivers and the first courses for Aiken High’s Cambridge International thematic program Tuesday at its regular meeting.

Bus drivers will receive an increase in their pay scale by 7 percent. The increase will become effective Oct. 17, and drivers will receive their first paychecks that reflect the increase Nov. 20.

“We’re competitive with our surrounding areas with this increase,” said Board Member Keith Liner, who made the recommendation from the Salary Committee. “I want to note, too, that our lowest rate of pay is higher than the highest rate on the state’s scale. That tells you that we’re doing right by our bus drivers.”

The approved recommendation also will keep the current service credit formula, which rewards drivers with more pay based on their years of experience, Liner said. The recommendation removes the four-step cap that had been placed on drivers.

“There’s no cap on where drivers can be placed,” Liner said.

The recommendation also includes a guarantee of the minimum number of work hours per week, Liner said.

“The goal is to retain, reward and attract quality bus drivers so that we can have great people driving our kids,” Board Member Jeremy Mace said.

“Thank you for what you do. We appreciate you,” District Superintendent Dr. Sean Alford said after the vote to the bus drivers who attended the meeting. “We entrust the lives of our children and their safety every day – morning, noon and night – to you, and that’s an awesome responsibility. Not only do we appreciate you, but we also pray for you every day that you make it to school safely and bring our kids back home safely.”

Alvin Pressley, executive director of High Schools, told the Board the district has selected 10 Cambridge International courses to submit to the S.C. Department of Education for approval on Oct. 16. The courses would be offered to entering freshman at Aiken High at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, Pressley said.

Five courses will be approved at the college preparatory level and five at the honors level, Pressley said.

Aiken High will be the first Cambridge International school in South Carolina, Pressley said.

The Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education is the world’s most popular international qualification for 14 to 16 year olds, according to the district.

Cambridge is taught in more than 10,000 schools worldwide and prepares students to become global citizens able to compete on the world academic and economic stage, according to the district.

The Board approved flexing $500,000 in Education Improvement Act At-Risk funds to help cover the costs of middle schools’ technology upgrades and replacements, including projectors.

The funds are carry-over funds from fiscal year 2016-17, said Tray Traxler, the district’s chief officer of finance.

The Board also approved the budget calendar for fiscal year 2018-19.

The budget calendar would reduce the number of budget readings from three to two and move the final budget approval from late June to late May.

The first reading would be April 17, 2018; the public hearing on the tentative budget would be May 8, 2018; and the second reading and adoption of the 2018-19 budget would be May 22, 2018.

As he starts his third year at the district superintendent, Alford recapped the district’s progress over the last year, focusing on seven areas: continuous improvement, communication, compliance, efficiency, middle school transformation, leadership development and perception of the district.

“I’m both honored and humbled to have started my third year as superintendent in Aiken County,” Alford said. “I believe our team is growing stronger every day.”