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School board seeks, approves new hires

The Three Forks School Board approved four new hires and a bus driver signing bonus for the 2022-23 school year, during its July 19 meeting.

The board hired Sarah Dolan and Sarah Sapp as the middle school's and high school's secretary, respectively. Aaron Lattimore was also hired as the district's behavioral support and in school suspension supervisor.

Craig Potts was rehired as the district's transportation and grounds manager. "He puts in 100% and doesn't gripe about it," Superintendent Rhonda Uthlaut said, adding that Potts takes pride in his work.

The district continues to advertise various other open positions, including three middle school teacher positions, several route and activity bus drivers, a maintenance director and an afternoon/evening custodian.

In an attempt to recruit more bus drivers, the board approved a $1,500 signing bonus for route drivers. Drivers will receive the sign-on bonus in two installments in January and June. The board discussed the possibility of providing current drivers with a retention bonus too.

"We need additional bus drivers, and if we don't find people to hire, we're going to have to look at making some changes," Uthlaut said during the meeting.

One change discussed was reducing bus services within a 3-mile range of the school. In the past, the school has picked up some students within this range if they lived along the way and there was space on the bus; however, with only three current drivers, the district is preparing to combine routes.

The district will identify students who need access to bus services from the school's online registration software to help determine bus routes, Uthlaut said, explaining that the district must also consider the bus's capacity as well as the length of the route when finalizing routes this August.

"We want to continue providing all the services we have, we just need additional drivers," Uthlaut told The Voice on July 24.

Uthlaut told The Voice that the district is willing to hire drivers for only morning or afternoon routes if needed. She also said the district will help pay for CDL licensing.

Including the 7% pay increase approved at the board's June meeting, starting pay for bus drivers is $19.26 per hour, with a 30-cent raise each year. Bus drivers receive partial benefits. Those interested can call the school at (406) for more information.

"It's a balancing act of trying to attract people to hire for jobs and also knowing that we're going to have increased costs this year," Uthlaut told the board during the meeting.

During her conversation with The Voice, Uthlaut emphasized that the bus driver shortage impacts districts throughout the state.

According to Uthlaut, some districts do not provide bus services and utilize individual reimbursement contracts instead; however, she wants to avoid doing this since not all parents have the ability to drive their students to school.

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