NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Two East Texas school districts, in two different counties, are using the exact same marketing tactic to reel in potential bus drivers. While one district says the ploy is working, the other says not so much.
From sun-up to sundown, bus drivers are not only making the wheels on the bus go round, but are getting our kids home safe and sound.
"We put very valuable cargo in their hands everyday and we send them up and down some of the busiest roads we have. I think they deserve a lot of respect and I think it's a wonderful position. It's something that's very important to get those babies here and to get those babies back home," Sherry Hughes, the superintendent for Corrigan-Camden ISD, said.
But lately, the number of drivers at Corrigan-Camden ISD and Nacogdoches ISD has dwindled.
"We've had some turn over and we've also increased the amount of routes this year with our shuttle service that we're doing and so we're kind of running short on drivers. And so the best way for us to do it is to put it out there so for people who go by the school it's just right beside transportation and hopefully they'll see that and call and come in," said Grey Burton, the Associate Superintendent at Administrative Services for Nacogdoches ISD.
Both districts have been using signs saying "Corrigan Camden Needs Bus Drivers," or "Bus Drivers Needed," outside of their high schools as a new marketing tactic to bring in fresh drivers to the field.
But, Burton says, they are looking for those that have flexible schedules.
"It's part-tim ework. They work in the morning and they work in the evenings and they're paid very well, but it's kind of a unique group of people that have the ability to do that. So that's the biggest problem is finding people that they're schedule allows them to come early and then come again later because it doesn't pay like a full-time job," Burton said.
But is the tactic working?
"We haven't had the response that I had hoped we would. I was thinking that maybe there would be some retired people in the area who would be willing to just do that on and off again sub position," Hughes said.
While Corrigan-Camden is only looking for substitute drivers, Nacogdoches says the ad for part-time and full-time drivers is working. Yet, salary is an issue.
"Right now, our drivers midpoint salary is $15.30 an hour, so that's basically average pay for a bus driver," Burton said.
Give or take, that's around $300 to $600 a week, which isn't bad. Yet, Nacogdoches ISD says they cannot pay their drivers year-round.
"The only way we could achieve that is to cut the amount per hour right at minimum wage and even then the cost would be tremendous," Burton said.
However, Hughes says Corrigan-Camden is considering new options for its drivers.
"We're actually looking into that. Most of our teachers, our aides and our staff members, we pay them over a 12-month period. Sometimes we don't do that with our bus drivers, but we are looking at possibly moving to do that in the future. We're doing a lot of work on our compensation plan," Hughes said.
While both districts need at least five to ten new drivers for the upcoming school year, they say they have a good group of drivers that have been part of the district for nearly 20 years.
"That longevity in that position is a really good thing for the school. They know the kids, they know the parents, they know the homes and so I like that," Hughes said.
"We have a core group of people that stay with transportation. They've been there a number of years. We always have people like you know kids in college, and you know, some people who have flexible schedules that will come in, but for the most part, we have a pretty steady group of employees here," Burton said.
Both districts want to make it clear that they aren't looking for just anyone. Each driver has to go through an extensive training period.
"The certification, first of all, that you have to go through with TXDOT is pretty extensive, as far as the operation of the bus. Also, Texas has its own criteria for educators if they go and drive a school bus there is a whole program that they have to go through. It's 20 hours that they have to go through and every three-to-five years they have to go on a 10-hour update on that," Burton said.
Corrigan-Camden does allow some teachers and coaches to drive the buses to events, such as UIL, but they require them to still train.
"All of our drivers have to be re certified every year. They have to go through drug screening. We do monthly safety meetings. We're constantly looking for new technology to bring onto our buses. That's something that we're looking at right now is we're looking at some things to bring onto our buses that kind of helps our drivers do the pre and post drive check lists," Hughes said.
But, Hughes says, there is always potential to get hired onto the team full-time.
For more information on the Corrigan-Camden bus program, call (936) 398-4040 or visit their web site at Corrigan-camdenisd.net. For more information on the Nacogdoches ISD bus program, call (936) 569-5000 or visit nacisd.org.