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WATCH NOW: Waterloo school board agrees to help bus company boost wages for drivers
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WATCH NOW: Waterloo school board agrees to help bus company boost wages for drivers

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WATERLOO — Durham School Services’ bus drivers are getting a raise with the help of Waterloo Community Schools.

The Board of Education Monday unanimously approved a contract addendum with the transportation company that will give employees a bump in wages as well as increase hourly pay for new hires during the remainder of this school year and the next one. Waterloo Schools is covering approximately half of the additional expense.

“They’re willing to split the cost 50% to get this done as soon as possible,” said Kingsley Botchway, the district’s chief officer for human resources and equity.

Beginning April 1, the starting wage will grow from $14.35 to $16 per hour. For the 2021-22 school year, hourly pay for new drivers had been set at $14.71 and will now be boosted to $17. Existing employees will also get a pay bump that is still being negotiated by Durham.

The increases are expected to make the jobs more competitive with bus drivers in other districts.

Botchway said additional costs are estimated at $50,000 this fiscal year and $283,000 during the next one, starting July 1. The district’s share would be approximately $27,199 this year and $139,000 during 2021-22.

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Changing the contract raised some questions for board member Astor Williams, who noted a need in Waterloo Schools for para-educators that a pay boost could help solve. “Could we amend the contract for paras, as well?” he asked.

Superintendent Jane Lindaman said the district does look at “creative compensation strategies” for hard-to-fill positions, but faces some limits with a negotiated contract.

Board member Sue Flynn said she worried about “haggling” too much over the hourly wage.

“The bus drivers are critical to our kids,” she said. “I think we want to have more of a competitive wage. If you look at the responsibilities of a bus driver, they have a responsibility for the lives of all these kids on the bus.”

Board member Lyle Schmitt said he would support the proposal even though “I generally don’t favor amending a contract because a deal’s a deal.” He noted an openness this time because of changes in the past year which couldn’t be “completely anticipated.”

During the next year, the district will be negotiating a new contract with Durham for 2022-23. Schmitt called on administrators to “put 100% of our efforts” into those negotiations to create an agreement that’s sustainable “so we don’t go through this during the next contract.”

In other business, the board:

  • Adopted high school world language textbooks and digital courseware at a cost of $407,018. Wayside EntreCultures French I-III materials and EntreCulturas Spanish I-IV materials totaled $353,141; Wayside French IV materials totaled $15,632; and Klett USA Klasse! German I-III materials totaled $38,245.
  • Approved $465,676 in technology purchases. Included are 1,500 Chromebooks for incoming sixth- and ninth-grade students at the middle and high schools plus 80 laptops for staff at Becker Elementary and other buildings from Dell for $362,988; 2,300 Chromebook carrying cases from CDW-G for $39,100; and Mitel voice over internet protocol phone equipment from Marco for $63,588.
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Education Reporter

I cover local schools and higher education for The Courier, where I’ve been a reporter for the past two decades. I’m a Minnesota native and have previously worked for newspapers there and in Illinois.

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