Johnson City Press Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nathan Baker

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Hourly county school workers to be paid half for snow days

February 25th, 2014 9:07 pm by Nathan Baker

Hourly county school workers to be paid half for snow days

On the second try, member David Hammond convinced the Washington County Board of Education to pass a measure providing wages for hourly employees when school days are missed because of inclement weather.

The board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to allow the director of schools and the director of finance to develop a procedure whereby instructional assistants, custodians and food service personnel will be paid for half the days school is canceled for snow or other weather events.

“These people want to work, it’s not a handout,” Hammond said. “You take care of quality people, especially when they’re taking care of the most precious asset we have here. I make no apologies for this.”

After an appeal earlier this month from Hammond to consider the people behind the budget figures, his request was sent back to the district’s Finance Committee, which Hammond chairs, for more study.

Since that meeting, the board member said he’d been characterized by some critics as seeking handouts for the school employees, but said he still felt the procedures approved Tuesday were the right things to do.

At their last meeting, the system’s Finance Director Beverly Thomas told the board that the district had a longstanding practice of paying instructional assistants and custodians for half of the missed days, but she was worried the food service fund, which relies on revenue from lunch sales and federal reimbursements, would not have enough money to cover the wages for the 100 employees in that department.

Thomas pointed to the declining number of students purchasing lunch as the cause of the dwindling food service reserve fund.

Hammond said after the vote Tuesday that money would likely be transferred from another source to pay for the missed wages of food service employees.

If no more days are missed this year, the newly crafted policy will pay the hourly employees for five full days out of 10 missed.

Other business:

The school board also devised a plan to remove above ground diesel fuel tanks at district schools, which were identified as safety concerns in a district-wide security assessment conducted last year.

Upon a firm recommendation from Director Ron Dykes, who said he has tried to have the tanks removed for years, with a split vote the members decided to distribute Fuelz Fleet Cards, offered by McPherson Oil Products, to bus drivers and remove all of the diesel tanks in close proximity to instructional buildings.

Using the fleet cards, drivers can purchase fuel at retail stations, and the district can put strict controls on the amount of diesel purchased, Dykes said.

The system-owned tanks at the county bus garage on the south end of the county will stay in place for now, because board members felt there weren’t enough accessible stations nearby that accepted the Fuelz card.

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