Justin Gabrysch

Justin Gabrysch, Victoria East High School principal.

The Victoria school board Thursday evening unanimously approved increasing the pay of bus drivers beginning the 2019-2020 school year.

Hourly pay rate for a bus driver just starting with the district will be $16 an hour, with hourly pay increasing by 50 cents for each year of experience. Those with eight years or more experience will receive $20 an hour.

“We found our starting pay of $11.81 per hour is significantly below the average Region 3 school district’s starting pay,” said Greg Bonewald, the deputy superintendent of operations.

Bonewald told the board that the district has a shortage of bus drivers and will need to be able to successfully recruit 15 additional bus drivers to have the necessary 45 drivers for the next school year.

An increase in pay, Bonewald said, makes the Victoria school district more competitive to attract and retain bus drivers.

Trustee Margaret Pruett said the pay increase is “well deserved.”

“A lot of the bus drivers are just amazing – they love the kids and they know them. That smile from a bus driver might be the only one a student will see that day – they can really make a difference in a child’s life,” Pruett said.

In other action, the board also approved to raise student breakfast and lunch fees to meet federal guidelines, beginning the 2019-2020 school year.

Breakfast and lunch at elementary campuses will increase by 10 cents, while lunch at secondary campuses will increase by 5 cents.Dana Bigham, the director of child nutrition for the district, told the board the district’s breakfast and lunch rates are below limits.

The Healthy, Hungry Free Kids Act of 2010 requires school districts to gradually increase prices until the revenue per meal equals the federal reimbursement amounts received for free breakfasts and lunches, she said.

Guidelines in the new act recommend raising the price of meals no more than 10 cents a year, she said.

Elementary students who are not on the free or reduced meal plans will now pay $2.65 for lunch, while secondary students not on the fee or reduced meal plans will pay $3. Breakfast will now be $1.60 for those who pay full-price.

Also, trustees unanimously approved to assign Justin Gabrysch as principal of Victoria East High School and Shaka Hawkins as band director at Victoria West High School.

Gabrysch has been the assistant principal at Victoria East High School since 2014. He earned his master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Houston-Victoria and has a bachelor of science degree from Texas A&M University-College Station.

He also served the district as an assistant principal at Cade Middle School and teacher and coach at Patti Welder Middle School.

Amber Aldaco reports on education for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at aaldaco@vicad.com or 361-580-6303.

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Education Reporter

Amber Aldaco is the education reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She's covered various events in the Crossroads including a zoo rescue, a biker funeral and a state meeting with the governor. She enjoys singing with her significant other.

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