Wiscasset schools’ maintenance and transportation director John Merry told the school committee Tuesday night, April 27, he has spoken with someone about bus service and would be again, then he would talk with Superintendent of Schools Terry Wood.
Committee member Indriani Demers asked if Merry was referring to contracted bus service. Yes, said member Michelle Blagdon. “We’re having such a hard time filling (driver) positions. We’re always short ... we’ve spent the last four years being short on bus drivers. This way, we’d at least know our buses are all covered. We won’t have to pull staff to drive buses.”
Responding to board questions, Wood and Chair Michael Dunn said the department’s bus drivers would not automatically be transferred to a hired service; they would need to apply to the company; and they said bus service drivers have to undergo fingerprint-background checks like department staff do. “(Service drivers) are probably more vetted ...,” Dunn said.
Member Desiree Bailey recalled the committee talking about the idea a year ago.
Asked via email later, if the school department were to contract for bus service, would the school committee need to approve the contract, Wood responded: “We would follow the language in the collective bargaining agreement in regards to subcontracting.”
The proposed school budget heading into the May 12 special town meeting, where voters take it up by cost center, is $9,123,677.86, $869,014.98 less than the 2020-21 budget, Wood said. The meeting is at 6 p.m. in Wiscasset Middle High School’s Stover Auditorium.
WMHS Assistant Principal-Athletic Director Warren Cossette, speaking as a townsperson, praised the “meticulous” work he said administrators put into the budget, and into the planning he said not all school departments do. “This is a growing concern all over Maine, the desperation because people have not looked to the future and done the (work) like Johnny (Merry) has, consistently both with our buses and our infrastructure of all the school buildings ... We’ve set ourselves up in Wiscasset in a very good way to deal with issues ... And I thank all of you, the board and all of those administrators.”
The department has hired Cheryl Lierow as a school psychologist and Jennifer Mooney as a speech/language pathologist. Wood said Dan Lincoln has transferred from being an elementary school custodian to being WMHS’ head custodian.