During a meeting last week, the board of education unanimously approved a continuation of the existing incentive plan for 2015-16. The initiative began in March as a way to combat chronic absenteeism among district bus drivers.
And, according to transportation director Bobby Taylor, it is working.
Before the bonuses were put into place, Brunswick County Schools reported 16 daily absences among its drivers. That number dropped to nine after the incentive, and of those nine, Taylor said five had applied for Family Medical Leave Act time due to extended medical issues.
“It shows it was a serious issue that we were having and how the incentive program itself really did a good job in correcting that problem,” Taylor told board members.
Before the bonuses—awarded for the first 90 days of perfect attendance and then again at the end of the second semester—Taylor said the transportation department had 90 drivers absent, a number that significantly impacts getting buses on the road and students to and from school. But since March, only 22 drivers called in for time off.
Board member John Thompson noted that the program—unique to Brunswick County—makes the district a “little more desirable” to job seekers.
And Taylor said it also saves money in the long run, cutting down on instances when a substitute driver and an absent full-time driver had to be paid on the same day.
The plan will also hopefully shield the district from a mass exodus of drivers should the N.C. Senate’s version of the budget—which includes a sweeping cut of teacher assistants—be approved. Many of the district’s drivers are teacher assistants, and could transition to full time, Tubb said, while the already full-time drivers would be more inclined to stay employed with the district to receive the extra money.
Under the 2015-16 incentive plan, those full-time drivers could receive up to $1,500–$750 per semester of perfect attendance. Part-time drivers will receive $375 each 90 days, and those who work just one shift each day could earn up to an additional $375 for the year.
Payments will be made in January and again at the end of June 2016.
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or firstname.lastname@example.org.