Every birthday is special for former coach Bennie Price as these are the days he treats his school bus riders with special gifts and cards, imprinting lasting memories. Price thought he was done coaching and enjoying retirement but has found a new passion for coaching students while at the helm of a school bus.
“The kids get to know you,” Price said. “That is a special thing.”
Working with Edmond Public Schools since 2011, Price said he was tired of spending his days drinking coffee at McDonald’s and shooting the breeze. Instead, he wanted to make a difference. The bus driving job gives Price extra money to spend on his grandchildren and enjoy Thunder basketball games. At the same time, he is supporting the district as a support staff member.
“The surrounding here does not make it feel like a job, instead it is like a hobby,” Price said.
With nearly a 25 percent turnover rate in support staff, the district is hoping to highlight ways those in the community can spend their extra time by helping students. “The school district does not work without everybody,” said Director of Support Personnel Amanda Genzer. “There are so many ways to get involved with Edmond Public Schools.”
There are around 1,300 support staff positions throughout the district from teaching assistants to maintenance staff, and many areas have openings often with the growing district. “Support staff are an important part of our school system,” Genzer said. “They play a role in the delivery of education to children in our community.”
For full-time support staff, they are qualified to join the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement system along with receiving health and life insurance. Edmond Public Schools also offers training to all of its new employees. And, new this spring, is an annual $500 award for the support staff member of the year and six $250 finalists. Edmond Public Schools also offers training to all of its new employees.
“Many support staff are some of the most dedicated and hardworking individuals you could meet,” Genzer said, who started as a support worker herself.
Zigo Tesfai is one such worker having dedicated 35 years to the district so far. Over the years she has held positions on the custodial team, helped monitor students and for the past seven years has worked in child nutrition. For her, the best part of the job is interacting with students. “Without the children, we cannot do anything,” Tesfai said. “If they are happy, then everything will go well.”
Pay rates for support staff vary by position, starting at $11 per hour. Bus drivers are required to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and start at $14.26 per hour. The district provides CDL training if needed.