The Blount County Board of Education last week voted to give bus contractors a one-time payment of $750 per bus, a total of $76,500 for the 102 buses that serve the county.
The Blount County Commission would have to approve the payment, which would come from the school district’s fund balance, an amount reserved beyond what is budgeted.
The school board this year gave the school bus contractors a 2 percent raise, but trimmed what it called a “start up” payment of $750 per bus in June after the commission objected to plans for spending money from the fund balance in its 2018-19 budget. That would have made the raise for school buses 4.5 percent this year.
Board member Scott Helton, who made the motion for the payment Nov. 1, said Blount County Schools is paying 11 percent less for bus service than Loudon County, 20 percent less than Knox County and 33 percent less than Anderson County.
The overall payments are based on the miles driven and number of seats. Helton said the one-time payment could help with maintenance.
The average age of the buses serving BCS is 10 to 13 years, according to Kevin Wilner, transportation coordinator for the district, and maintenance costs have risen faster than inflation in recent years.
The $750 payment would average $75 a month for the 10 months the buses run. The district uses 73 regular buses and 29 for students with disabilities.
Before the regular meeting Nov. 1 the school board held a special meeting to discuss the evaluation of Director Rob Britt.
The seven board members rated Britt on 48 measures, with all ratings that he has exceeded or met expectations. No votes were in the bottom two ratings, making progress or insufficient progress.
Overall 52 percent of the board ratings were that Britt exceeded expectations and 48 percent that he had met them. His highest rating, all exceeding expectations, was for “creating and maintaining a high degree of understanding and respect between the the staff and board.”
One of his lowest ratings, with only one “exceeding” vote, was for recruiting and assigning the best available personnel. In comments included with the evaluation both board Chair Debbie Sudhoff and board member Robbie Kirkland cite a need for greater staff diversity.
In other comments Kirkland said he wants board policy to be consistently enforced across the schools, more parent input to the board and for more individualized education plans for ninth-graders.
Board member Fred Goins cited a need for increased student achievement.
School board members have been working on a new format for the evaluation starting next year.
The board could not consider a raise for Britt because it was too close to the August election but might put that on its December agenda.
During the regular meeting last week the board also honored nine employees for 30 years of service.
The employees honored are Sonya Blankenship, Middlesettlements Elementary; Billy Coning, William Blount High School; Melissa Crabtree, Carpenters Middle School; Mike Crabtree, Central Office; Jimmy Fagg, Carpenters and Heritage middle schools; Linda Goins, Heritage High School; Beverly Hackney, Middlesettlements; Debbie Keeble, Samuel Everett School of Innovation; and Wanda Templin, Montvale Elementary School.
During the public comment period a student from William Blount High School asked the board to give school principals greater leeway in exempting students from exams.
Although students may be exempt from some tests if they have few absences, she said students in good standing with greater absences for significant medical issues also should be exempt.