Bus drivers and other classified workers in Stanly County are expecting to see a bonus on their January paycheck and raises later this year.
What You Need To Know
Stanly County schools' support staff to see raise in minimum wage, bonuses, thanks to state budget
Group of bus drivers and other classified workers protested salaries in November 2021
Stanly County is just one of several North Carolina counties trying to entice school bus drivers with raises, bonuses
In late 2021, a group of Stanly County schools workers protested outside the district office, asking the county for more money and respect.
“We were a part of the frontline, the Stanly County school bus drivers were a part of the frontline, but we never got compensated. Several of us had COVID, and we even had a bus driver to die, but we never got the COVID pay,” one of the drivers, Ashley Garner, said at the protest in 2021.
Now, those classified workers will be looking for raises, and a one-time bonus, on their next paycheck.
“SCS began communicating with all staff on December 1, 2021, that the state passed a budget in November of 2021 for the first time since 2018. The budget included all staff that makes less than $75,000 annual salary will receive a $1,500 bonus and those that make more than $75,000 annual salary will receive a $1,000 bonus. All bonus payments and retroactive salary bonuses are to be paid by January 31, 2022,” said Stanly County Schools administrative and board assistant Hope Miller-Drye in an email to Spectrum News 1.
She continued, saying the state’s budget also included a raising of the minimum wage for school support staff to $15 an hour in 2022.
Garner, who was an active participant in the November protest, said the news was well-received, but should only be treated as a first step toward solving the problem.
“I think it’s a good start, but it’s not an end. I just hope that, since we’re starting to move up to that — because there’s still people that’s been there 20, 30 years, will only be making $15. So, we just need to get a plan that every year, there will be some kind of increase, or seniority bonus. We need to work towards that,” Garner said.
Garner, who’s been a Stanly County bus driver for a decade and a half, said she’s still making the same $13.07 an hour as when she started.
The mother of four said she started bus driving when two of her children were in middle school as a way to make extra money and spend more time with them.
“We all love kids, and it’s just something to supplement our income, and it’s local, and we enjoy doing it,” Garner said.
But Garner just happens to be the latest family member to end up behind the wheel of the county’s school buses, stating several of her family members drive or have driven buses.
Garner said she and other bus drivers had discussed protesting for years, saying the county often claimed raises were being considered at start-of-year meetings, only for them to never materialize.
“We would never hear anything else about it,” Garner added.
So, Garner said her co-workers started talking about a protest and she agreed it was time to act.
Stanly County joins several other North Carolina counties, which have increased salaries for bus drivers and other classified workers this school year.
In the second half of 2021, Union County Public Schools increased starting salaries for bus drivers to $16.75 an hour, an increase from the previous $13.87.
Then, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools increased its starting pay to $17.75 an hour. At the time, CMS said the raises meant a $2-3 increase per hour, depending on experience.
“It’s a start in the right direction,” Garner said.