Support workers not pleased with supplemental pay plan in Jeff Davis

Published 4:41 pm Saturday, September 18, 2021

JENNINGS — A Jeff Davis Parish school bus driver said Thursday he and fellow support workers are concerned with the amount of a proposed salary supplement being offered for the district’s employees.

Jeff Davis Bus Operator’s Association President Peter Leblanc, who has been a bus driver at Hathaway High School for 47 years, said support workers are troubled with the School Board’s plan to give full-time certified employees a $1,500 one-time supplement, but only $1,000 to full-time support workers.

“We don’t think it is fair the way this money is divvied up,” LeBlanc said. “Nothing against the teachers, they deserve what they get. They feel like when the teachers start work they are first hired they start with a higher pay salary, but we start with a lower base salary.”

The group feels the proposed stipend, which is given to employees on top of their annual salary, is unfair because all the other employees are working as hard as teachers, LeBlanc said.

“We have secretaries, janitors, cafeteria workers that are out there doing the best they can just like teachers are,” he said.

LeBlanc and Tina Gary, a 20-year a bus driver at Hathaway High School, said they are grateful for the stipends, but feel they are inequitable.

They urged the board to consider an across-the-board pay for all employees regardless of degrees, positions and hours worked. Stipends are given across-the-board in other parishes, LeBlanc said.

“This is a stipend that you get one time, everybody in this office and this school parish work just as hard to get this money, so why has it always been divided into someone with a degree and someone without a degree,” Gary said. “Why can’t it be given across-the-board fairly because it is a one-time thing.”

Gary said bus drivers have a lot of responsibility to get students to and from school safely and often begin their day before daylight.

“With no disrespect to anybody, but I know what teachers do day in and day out and the paperwork they bring home,” board member Paul Trahan said. “Loading lesson plans on Saturdays and Sundays and in the summer when they are not paid. Bus drivers run five days a week. The average teacher does not work five days a week.”

After a lengthy discussion, the board voted 8-3 to table the measure with board members Charles Bruchhaus, Terry Leger and Paul Trahan voting against delaying it until next month. Board members David Capdeville and David Doise were absent. All other board members voted in favor of tabling the plan.

Superintendent Kirk Credeur said there are a million ways that the board can come up with a different plan.

“Sometimes it’s very difficult because there is no formula of how you divide it and what’s one person’s definition of fair and not the other person’s definition of fair,” Credeur said. “The concern I have now is there are literally millions of ways for this to be done, so we are going to have to create some different options.”

He said the difficulty comes in the various levels of degrees, experience and work hours because all employees are different.

“Twenty to 30 years ago we felt blessed that the board would give us money,” he continued. “Today when we give our money it just seems like it’s a great challenge and that just disappoints me that it has become that, but it does.”

Money for the stipends are from a $2.6 million budget surplus.