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School crossing guards' pay again reduced

Sunday, May 19, 2013 3:13 PM
Last updated 7:32 PM
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After winning their summer unemployment benefits back in a recent statewide decision, Richmond County School Crossing guards are now having their workdays and pay cut by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.

Longtime Richmond County school crossing guard Annie Kirksey talks with student Tehran Pitts at the intersection of Ingleside Drive and Boy Scout Road.
Longtime Richmond County school crossing guard Annie Kirksey talks with student Tehran Pitts at the intersection of Ingleside Drive and Boy Scout Road.

Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton said not only was the guards’ hourly wage of $19.18 per hour above that of comparable counties, their payment for school system holidays, furlough days and four sick days was an unheard-of practice for part-time workers.

“We pay you a good wage; we’re going to leave your salary the same,” Clayton said he would explain to the guards. “But we’re going to pay you when you work.”

Clayton, who like Sheriff Richard Roundtree came from Richmond County Board of Education police department, said the move will save the city about $70,000 per year.

Where that savings would actually go, however, is uncertain. According to a document obtained from the city finance office, the 77 guards’ wages, taxes and Medicare payments cost the city $526,853.38 last year. After reimbursement by Richmond County Board of Education for the service, however, the net cost to the city for 2012 was only $46,505.

None of the guards would speak on the record with The Augusta Chronicle about the cuts for fear of retaliation. However, several noted the cuts are likely to reduce their hours below the level at which they remain eligible for summer unemployment benefits recently restored by the Georgia Department of Labor.

Also being eliminated are two guards assigned to help children cross to Alleluia Community School and Westminister Preparatory School, the last of two private schools in Richmond County to have publicly-funded crossing guards.

“We provide it for the public schools out of tax money,” Clayton said. “As a private school, they can assume that. It’s for a for-profit organization.”

Clayton defended the cuts as the actions of a “new administration” and acknowledged he had no idea why the guards’ wages were what they are or how long they’d been paid for the holidays. “We are under a lot of budget constraints, like everyone,” he said.

At an hour and a half of work each day, the guards took home about $5,881 annually prior to the cuts, although some might work up to three hours per day, in the mornings when school starts and the afternoons, when it lets out.

According to prior reports, the guards have been under the sheriff’s office since consolidation and instructed annually by the department to apply for summer unemployment each year due to lack of work.

Two members of the Augusta Commission, which approves the sheriff’s budget, questioned the decision’s impact on the guards, who help children ineligible for bus service because they reside within a mile of a public school and are known to be extremely dedicated, often remaining at the same crossing for decades.

“The kids get to know the school crossing guards; the parents get to know the school crossing guards,” said Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle. “You aren’t going to find 77 people if you lose them, with the checks and balances,” such as required background checks.

Commissioner Joe Jackson, who lives in the Alleluia Community scheduled to lose its school crossing guard at the end of the school year, said most of his community did pay school taxes, despite enrolling their kids in the community school.

“Really is it that bad that you can’t provide a crossing guard two hours a day?” Jackson asked. “I think they ought to be more than happy because that’s 200 students (who attend Alleluia) that aren’t enrolled in a public school.”

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Little Lamb
43931
Points
Little Lamb 05/19/13 - 04:34 pm
6
1
Safety Patrol

When I was a kid, we kids were the crossing guards. They had a program called the Safety Patrol. The elementary schools were grades one through six. In the fifth grade late in the school year they selected students they thought trustworthy, gave us training. Then after refresher training in August they gave us an identifying belt that crossed our chests, along with a brass badge.

We would stand at crossings assigned to us (rain or shine) and help the "little" kids cross the streets. Our reward was a train ride to the beach for a day trip just before school let out and we moved up to junior high school. Junior high kids and senior high kids didn't have any crossing guards. If you hadn't figured it out by seventh grade, you were out of luck.

InChristLove
22420
Points
InChristLove 05/19/13 - 04:45 pm
4
0
LL....you just brought back

LL....you just brought back some fond memories of my elementary school days (many moons ago).

my.voice
4654
Points
my.voice 05/19/13 - 04:47 pm
3
0
Thanks LL, I had forgotten

Thanks LL, I had forgotten all about that.

Little Lamb
43931
Points
Little Lamb 05/19/13 - 05:58 pm
5
0
Rain

We didn't use umbrellas. We all had those bright yellow oilcloth raincoats with hoods. Of course, the school system did not provide the raincoats. Parents did that.

bdouglas
4505
Points
bdouglas 05/19/13 - 08:27 pm
6
0
Ditto what LL said! As a

Ditto what LL said! As a child of the early 80's, I imagine I'm considered a youngin' around here, but I was also a crossing guard in elementary school. Same deal with it being trustworthy 5th graders given the task and the same dayglo orange belt across the chest, and rubber raincoats on the wet days. Didn't get a badge or a free trip, though! We took it pretty seriously, though, as we felt like a pretty big deal for being tasked with it. Back then you could still paddle a kid that misbehaved, and I even got a couple myself. Sounds like some ideas that could stand to be brought back...

rational thought trumps emotion
2459
Points
rational thought trumps emotion 05/19/13 - 08:32 pm
3
0
$550,000.00 per year????

LL brings up a great point but if that will not work then how about parent approved volunteers? Many of the guards are in areas with traffic lights to control traffic and just aren't needed.

Part time employees shouldn't have ever had these benefits to begin with so it is about time someone makes the hard decisions that need to be made to correct these issues. $19.18 per hour is more than many deputies and fire fighters make in an hour.

Not that it would save that much money but why aren't the school guards under the school system?

This $550,000.00 per year should be completely re-thought and reduced or eliminated if possible. As for private schools, they are a for-profit business and should never have been assigned crossing guards to begin with. However, they should be allowed to pay the county if they wish to keep the guards or they can pay them directly.

Bodhisattva
5631
Points
Bodhisattva 05/20/13 - 04:44 am
2
4
Yeah. And we walked barefoot

Yeah. And we walked barefoot in the snow to school, uphill, Both ways. When we were kids we used to wait for a semi to go by to try to get him to blow his horn. Now, 10 probably went by in the time it takes me to type this. Exponentially more traffic coupled with a lot more distractions ( ok, we did have to keep jamming the matchbook into the 8-track player so it didn't play 2 songs at the same time). Fancy cell phones, texts, gps, maps, the dang thing talking to you giving you the wrong directions, real fancy cars stereos with multiple controls far beyond the volume and tone we used to have, multiple adjustment for seats and steering wheels (that you should adjust before you start, but once driving you often have to fine tune them), complicated climate control systems, sunroofs, moonroofs, satellite radios, you name it, the distraction is there. To top it off, I don't think drivers drive as well as they did years ago. Courtesy, for the most art, has gone the way of the Dodo. They have to be first. It doesn't matter if there's a red light 50 feet ahead, by God, they're going to be first in line at the red light. Folks change lanes at stupid speeds and with only inches to spare. Coupled with the having to be first, you can see some people zip from lane to lane squeezing into spaces that are barely far enough apart, back and forth all the way down the highway. Speeding is the norm. I don't know if the cop to person ratio used to be higher or the cops just don't care about speeding but used to darn well get speeding tickets. You didn't have the entire mass of traffic cruising 25 mph above the speed limit because the cops were picking the off, at times stopping multiple cars at the same time. Anyway, that's enough. It's a dangerous job and there no way in hades I'd let a kid do it. Almost $20 an hour? Hmm. Not a lot of hours a day so it'd need to be enough to make people want to do it. Just looked at the BOE site and a substitute teacher with a 4 year degree earns $60 a DAY, a whopping $80 a DAY if you teach over 15 days in the same class. (a retired teacher after 45 days in the same class makes $187.23. I'm putting money on you have to know someone to get those gigs). Just my opinion, but it seems they have the pay schedules somewhat reversed for the job description and education level. Right at $20 an hour might be worth it for substituting. Might.

Bodhisattva
5631
Points
Bodhisattva 05/20/13 - 05:08 am
1
2
Hey, I pay taxes too. Can I

Hey, I pay taxes too. Can I drive a police car around sometime and play with the lights and siren? I'm with rational. A private school should get bupkis. Why the heck did they ever have them in the first place? The country should look in to getting reimbursed for the years they've provided guards going back as many years as possible.

palmetto1008
9782
Points
palmetto1008 05/20/13 - 06:13 am
1
3
Did Joe Jackson really say
Unpublished

Did Joe Jackson really say that? REALLY??
He should be more than happy that I'm not a county taxpayer.

rebellious
20174
Points
rebellious 05/20/13 - 07:15 am
4
0
Lambster

I bet you were as proud of that white belt and shoulder strap as I was. I was also on the team that hoisted the flag in the morning and lowered and folded it at day's end. That's when I learned how to properly fold and respect "Old Glory".

But things were different then. There was no national campaign against bullying. When you had enough, you "bucked up" and gave or took a butt-whipping. Either way, the bullying would stop. People didn't freak out when you whipped out your Barlow to play Mumbletypeg. If you brought home a bad grade, the call to the teacher wasn't to blame them, it was to find out what you had to do to make it up. Getting suspended was the result of some serious offense, not a daily occurrence and their was no Bunal, Bibunal nor Tribunal.

Fiat_Lux
14851
Points
Fiat_Lux 05/20/13 - 07:59 am
4
1
Yeah, Palmetto, he did say that, just as he should have.

People who send their kids to Alleluia and Westminster all pay taxes, some of them a whole lot of taxes, and their kids cost the public school system exactly ZERO money. And they get exactly nothing in return for all the millage rate and other taxes they pay that support public edumacation in Richmond County.

Somehow, having a public safety officer out there to protect and assist these citizens' children on public roadways, roadways that are far too busy for child "safety patrols" or untrained volunteers, doesn't seem at all unreasonable. In fact, the trade off is all in favor of the public coffers.

Have anything more cogent to add?

Purplexed
5
Points
Purplexed 05/20/13 - 09:00 am
3
0
Crossing Guards

Only in Augusta, Ga., can this be an issue. The biggest thing missing in this story is the most important thing, the children being crossed, and the taxpayers being on the short end. There is too much money floating around, and for the PTO organizations, not training school guards, out of their bloated budgets, and getting volunteers, as was done for years. There are parents who volunteer in the classroom for no pay, so why can't someone cross children? When the article said only $46,000 comes out of the Sheriffs budget, it still is over $500,000 of the taxpayers, who really foots the bills for both overbloated systems.

Little Lamb
43931
Points
Little Lamb 05/20/13 - 09:02 am
1
0
RCBOE Police

Since the Richmond County Board of Education has its own police force, why don't they just handle the crossing guard as they see fit? Involving the sheriff department and the city finance department just complicates the paperwork. Look at paragraph 5. It says the city government pays the guards who work as part-time employees of the sheriff department, and then the school board makes a partial reimbursement.

That's way too much red tape. Get the sheriff and Fred (What, me worry?) Russell out of the picture and just let the school board handle the entire matter.

seenitB4
81686
Points
seenitB4 05/20/13 - 09:36 am
1
0
Rebel & Llamb

Just want to say thank you to both of yall...I know you did a great job as crosswalk patrol ....thank ya again....

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