SUMNER COUNTY, Tennessee (WKRN) – A shortage of school bus drivers is affecting many communities in Middle Tennessee.
According to the Tennessee Department of Education, there was a shortage of about 650 school bus drivers statewide at the start of this school year. The head of state said that while most districts are experiencing shortages, Metro Nashville Public Schools and Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools are two of the largest districts experiencing significant shortages, while counties Dickson’s, Sumner’s and Tipton’s are three medium-sized districts with noticeable problems. shortages.
“We’re competing for the same employee as everyone else – whether it’s in the retail business or the restaurant industry,” said Andrew Grasty, director of transportation for Sumner County Schools. “Even myself – I drove a bus line this morning. We have to get the kids to school every day, so that’s our job.
It’s a job retired law enforcement does for Sumner County schools as well.
“It was fun. I like it,” Tracy Murphy said after working as a police officer in California for 25 years before her retirement. “Once you get used to it and understand how to operate the bus , it’s just not that difficult. ”
It’s a family affair for John Fulton and his wife Leslie. Both retired from law enforcement careers in New York City before working as bus drivers for Sumner County schools.
“It seemed like an opportunity to meet people, socialize and stay young by interacting with the kids again,” John said.
It was also a similar goal for Murphy, but she found the insurance benefits to be another big draw.
“The advantage of this job when you’re retired is that you have medical insurance, the medical insurance is great and it was actually a deciding factor in becoming a bus driver,” Murphy explained.
Both LEOs brought their years of public safety experience to their work behind the wheel.
“Sometimes you have to stop the bus and knock the hammer down, but for the most part they’re really good (kids),” Murphy said.
These drivers also build relationships with their students.
“I’ve seen students go from elementary to middle and senior,” Fulton said, adding that he tries to make them smile when they get on his bus. “You don’t know what’s going on in their personal lives – maybe they’ve had a bad morning. So you try to improve it a bit before they get into school and that puts them in a better frame of mind to learn when they get there.
According to Grasty, the district transportation department is still recruiting bus drivers like other districts in the region, but they are doing all they can to make sure students and parents don’t see the effects of the shortage.
“We have amazing bus drivers working to help cover additional routes,” Grasty said.
Metro Nashville Public Schools, at the last checkpoint, needed 72 drivers to ensure all routes have a driver assigned. Schools in Clarksville-Montgomery County still need about 100 additional drivers and substitute drivers to be fully staffed.
Grasty hopes all the perks like health insurance and flexible hours are attractive enough to attract applicants.
“You get a state pension, you get time off, we extend the salary year round, so when the students are not in school, Thanksgiving vacation, Christmas vacation, summer vacation, they are always paid, ”he explained, adding that the emotional benefits mean so much more. “Just seeing the kids every morning is just rewarding. If people live near Sumner County or in Sumner County, I would love them to apply to come and work for us, but one of our fellow school districts is looking for school bus drivers.
MNPS has issued the following statement regarding its shortage of school bus drivers:
“We experienced a shortage of bus driver positions, at last count we needed 72 drivers to make sure all routes had a driver assigned, although we have capacity in the budget to exceed that if they are. there were enough candidates. The shortage of bus drivers here at MNPS and in districts across the state and nationwide continues to present a challenge in meeting the transportation needs of our students. District leadership continues to explore strategies for retaining and recruiting drivers to the team. As we continue to seek qualified candidates for our open driver positions, our transportation team deploys all available strategies such as operating A / B routes, combining routes or having staff trained by CDL occupying supervisory or other positions takes care of meeting the needs of the students. Our transportation team works closely with schools to tackle any challenges and notify them of potential delays caused by shortages or traffic so families can stay informed. As discussed during this year’s budget process, MNPS is looking to develop a support employee compensation plan during this fiscal year similar to the teacher compensation plan adopted in this fiscal year with a review of the market to ensure our salaries are competitive to retain and recruit talent for the district.
The problem is also not unique to central Tennessee, as survey data released in late August by major national school transportation associations showed that 51% of school districts across the country described their driver shortage of buses as “serious” or “desperate,” while nearly 80% of school districts reported the shortage is getting worse.
“Although we have experienced some shortage of drivers over the past four to five years, the situation has never been more serious than this school year,” said Norm Brumblay, CMCSS chief operating officer. “The lack of more than 30% of our workforce of drivers that we need has a significant impact on our transportation services for students. Having said that, I don’t agree that this is our “new normal”. We will continue to explore all opportunities within our power to recruit and retain drivers so that our students can be transported to and from school safely and on time.
The CMCSS has put in place the following incentives to address the driver shortage:
- $ 1,000 login bonus for new drivers
- $ 1,000 referral bonus for current drivers
- Allowances for driving additional routes at $ 10.00 per route (in addition to regular salary)
- End-of-year performance bonus of $ 600 for drivers employed by the CMCSS for 18 months or more
Anyone interested in applying to CMCSS can visit cmcss.net/employment, email [email protected], or call 931-358-4230.
Those interested in working with MNPS can apply here: https://mnps.org/careers/drive_with_us
For Sumner County Schools, you can visit this link to apply: https://sumnerschools.org/index.php/now-hiring