Outsourcing Your Tax Dollars, Part I
Sheridan School District sends custodian pay to Tennessee.
Why are our school districts struggling to find bus drivers?
Every school district in Arkansas has battled finding qualified staff to keep buses moving. It’s a hard job with a split shift. Drivers get up and start their day before anyone else’s alarms go off.
You’d have to have a lot of nerve to drive around picking up children, our most precious commodity, and deal with the daily struggle of dealing with busy roads with no shortage of idiot drivers. With a new generation of kids that avoided corporal punishment due to changes in social thinking, bus drivers take on a huge undertaking.
Kids these days are glued to a television that would no doubt make Andy Griffith and Aunt Bee go repent. Throw in violent video games and Tik Tok and you’ve created an almost unbearable situation for anyone tasked with the responsibility and authority to safely deliver 70+ kids per bus to and from school.
The Sheridan School District is a hot topic on social media with parents complaints over late buses and sometimes no bus at all.
How did we get here?
There’s no doubt that the economy is taking a toll on middle America.
We live in a fast-paced service-driven environment. If you don’t produce you are looking for a job. It’s no different at a school district. Bus driver positions are promoted as a part-time position with less than adequate pay.
The average daily bus route consists of 3.5 hours that equates to $70 a day. This topic peaked my interest in the fall of 2021 when the school board issued the annual raise that gave the former superintendent a $3,000+ dollar increase in pay and the average annual pay increase for a bus driver was $200 if they were lucky.
After speaking to numerous drivers I quickly learned that something had changed drastically in the district. Some of these drivers' duties were cut.
A New Way
The Sheridan School District board of directors approved a contract to outsource the custodial services March 9, 2020. On June 1, 2020 the school district entered into an annual contract with Southeast Service Corporation d/b/a SSC Service Solutions, a Tennessee corporation for general custodial positions and janitorial work.
The contract guarantees that SSC will clean the school buildings, and the school guarantees SSC will receive $1,129,556 for the service they provide in the initial contract signed in 2020.
Does Outsourcing Really Save Money?
Outsourcing jobs has become a common practice in America. Mom & Pop stores and restaurants are vanishing as fast as a politician can tell you a lie.
School districts are no different, being the largest driver of the local economy fueled solely by your tax dollars. School districts can have a positive or negative impact on your bank account. It’s important to note that not every parent can miss work or be late without losing their job. When the bus doesn't run, it hits home. Why would the school send Arkansas tax dollars to Tennessee, that seems counterproductive. Keeping our tax dollars at home helps build a stronger community.
Poor Decisions Lead to Problems
Sheridan bus drivers currently have the option of driving a split shift for 180 days. With a starting pay of $12,600 annually, to make more money, they now have to apply for a custodial job through SSC to fill their day. It’s a neat situation, if the drivers worked the 3.5 hour shift picking up kids and worked a 7-hour shift during the day directly for the school they’d get 50+ hours a week. Overtime! They’d be rolling in the cash.
It was worth taking the time to search out a current listing for an opening through SSC at our school. Take a look at this: SSC Job Opening
SSC offers $12 per hour for janitorial workers, according to their website in our district.
It’s important to note that on page 12 of the contract titled "Additional Service Rates" between SSC and the Sheridan School District, the school agrees to pay SSC $21 per hour plus materials for general custodial projects outside the scope of their contract.
For the $12-an-hour worker provided by SSC, the school pays $21 per hour. It states: “Material Costs and Third Party Vendor/Subcontracted Projects” will be subjected to “Invoice price plus 5% mark-up" so if SSC hires a subcontractor, the school pays the subcontractor invoice amount plus 5% to SSC for them to profit.
They didn't leave out “All hourly rates are subject to overtime at 1.5X standard hourly rates" either.
Governor Sarah Sanders “LEARNS" Act failed to address the wage gap that exists in every Arkansas school district. With superintendents pulling in SIX figures and teachers now making a minimum of $50k a year, one could wonder: Will anyone ever try to help out the common everyday worker?
According to the Sheridan School District's website "State Required Information", Superintendent Dr. Karla Neathery earns a salary of $186,005.58
Assistant Superintendents: Lincoln Daniels earns $118,200 and Chad Pitts landed $111,360.
The new head football coach currently earns a salary of $111,121.64
Dr. Neathery executed the SSC contract below on July 1, 2023.
At any rate maybe the state government is to blame for ignoring this issue during the education overhaul earlier this year. No matter who is at fault, the local school board is obligated to solve the issue.
Ask any parent how important a bus driver is to their daily lives. Our school board has stated that buses are a privilege. Arkansas does not require a school district to transport students. Although, if your child misses too many days in a semester, you'll get to go see the judge! But not if the bus is late or doesn’t run. The school will cover those days.
Even though the Sheridan School District receives an annual budget of over $30 million, a year, classified staff pay still remains well below a livable wage. [Note: This story was posted prior to the Sheridan School Board meeting on Sept. 11. According to the school's CFO in a presentation to the board, the amount is $48.2 million.]
There are many factors that have contributed to this bus crisis that parents and students have faced the last few years. But the leaders you elected to set the direction of the school district need to hear from every parent about this issue. If you wait for a politician to fix the problem you’re going to end up in the traffic line at the school.