Niskayuna school district gives raises, stipends to some workers

A sign on a school bus in front of the Niskayuna Central School District bus garage on Hillside Avenue signals the district's need for drivers on Friday.

A sign on a school bus in front of the Niskayuna Central School District bus garage on Hillside Avenue signals the district's need for drivers on Friday.

The Niskayuna Central School District has agreed to temporary changes to its collective bargaining agreements with bus drivers, food staff workers and nurses in an attempt to retain and employ people in those fields. 

The agreements were approved by the Board of Education during a meeting Tuesday.

Bus drivers will get a $3 raise, resulting in a starting salary of almost $23 an hour. Drivers who work full-time until Dec. 1 will receive a $500 retention stipend, according to the agreement. 

The stipend will appear in workers’ first paychecks in December. Those who stay through the end of the school year will receive an additional $500, which will be paid within two weeks of the last day of school. 

The hope is to retain bus drivers and entice people to apply to be drivers, according to a release from the district. 

There are 53 bus drivers, said Matt Leon, the district spokesperson. Filling bus driver positions has been an issue across the nation. Niskayuna is facing the same problem. Leon said the district would like to hire eight to 10 more drivers. He said there are some people in training now to be drivers.

“Being short-staffed has resulted in the need to combine bus routes on some days and delayed or canceled athletic trips,” Leon said. 

The district has launched an outreach program to get more people to apply to be bus drivers, including a video on the district’s social media pages and a flier that will be distributed throughout the community. 

“The work hours are good, it’s a great job to supplement my pension in retirement and it’s a good crew to work with,” said driver John Joyce.

The district also agreed to raise food service helpers pay by $3 per hour, to $18.63. Cook managers earn more.

Leon said the district employs seven cook managers and 14 food service workers right now. 

“Foodservice staffing is a day-to-day challenge,” he said. “We are generally doing OK for now but filling openings in this area is also a challenge.”

John Genter, the president of the Niskayuna School District Employees Association, which represents bus drivers and food staff, could not be reached for comment. 

Nurses in the district will receive a $2,500 stipend, according to the agreement. There are 11 school nurses, Leon said.

“We are fully staffed with school nurses but openings again are hard to fill,” Leon said. 

Younger people are looking to become school nurses though, said Carol Werblin, the president of the Niskayuna Nurses’ Association. 

“We’re pleased about that,” she said, noting it opens up the ability to interview and select nurses.

Werblin said nurses have taken on contact tracing duties when students test positive and previously they also had been taking students’ temperatures daily. 

“I think that most of the nurses, probably all of them, feel that this is well-deserved,” she said. “We are a hard-working group.”

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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