Sampson County Schools officials are in the process of considering options and making improvements for the school system’s driver’s education program.
The matter was explored during a recent work session for the Board of Education. Herb Sanderson, director of transportation, presented figures from the current and previous school years. Some of the talk included new cars and payment for instructors.
During the 2014-15 school year, 709 students were enrolled in the program and the cost to educate each one was roughly $229. The total cost was $162,231 and came from the state ($142,292) and student fees ($19,939). State allotments are based on $191.92 per student and 9th-graders for the upcoming year. School systems are allowed by state legislators to charge pupils $65. In 2014-15, the fee was $55 and $45 during the prior academic year.
“You don’t have to charge $65, but to balance the budget we need every penny that we can get,” Sanderson said.
To educate the students, Sampson County Schools uses a motor fleet of about 11 cars, but one was lost due to damage.
“We had one car that was totaled in an instructors driveway when a tree limb fell on it,” Sanderson said. “It turned out to be more to fix the car than what it was actually worth.”
The average vehicle is about 12 years old, with an average mileage of more than 111,000 miles.
“Our motor fleet is starting to age,” Sanderson said.
Maintenance is close to $7,000 and fuel is over $8,000.
“We’ve been fortunate this year where fuel prices have really helped us,” Sanderson said about lower prices at the pump.
Nine instructors educate the students through the driving process. Hobbton, Midway and Union districts have two instructors each and the Lakewood area used three. All are certified school teachers and additional certification is available through the Department of Motor Vehicles. The average pay is about $30 per hour.
During the meeting, Sanderson also brought up using an outside driving schools to educate drivers. Locally, Clinton is using contracted services and Sanderson said Pender County is doing the same thing.
“It is cheaper per student rate,” Sanderson said. “But my personal feelings on privatization is that you lose that continuity of certified school teachers. Some driving schools will try to use our current teachers but because of a lower rate in pay, many of them don’t accept those positions.”
He added that a lot of these schools use instructors who are not certified school teachers because it’s not a requirement. Also, Sanderson believes parents, guardians and students may not get the same attention or service with a private company.
“Our teachers do a great job of trying to group the students that live in the same area,” Sanderson said. “Once they complete the training in the afternoon, we take them home. Whereas a private entity would probably just take them back to school.”
In the upcoming months, Sanderson, SCS Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy and other district officials will look at revisiting the pay scale, vehicle options or using the services of a driving school.
“We’re looking ahead for future years,” Sanderson said.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.