On Jan. 4, the Killeen Independent School District held a job fair at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.
Among the positions available in the district, dozens of bus drivers are needed.
In October, KISD had 42 bus driver vacancies of 288 positions. As of last week, the number of vacancies was 48, according to Terry Abbott, KISD’s chief communications officer.
“We’ve had 16 applicants for bus driver since the job fair,” Abbott said.
All positions are offered benefits, Abbott said, and newly-hired drivers get a bonus after being there one year. The bus drivers fall into different categories, such as trip driver, alternative driver, regular driver, permanent substitute driver, and non-CDL driver.
The positions are not seasonal, Abbott said. Assignments begin in August and end in June, but the pay is prorated so employees receive paychecks throughout the summer.
Applicants for the bus driver positions must have a high school diploma or general education degree (GED). They must also possess a valid Texas Commercial Driver’s License, Class A or B, with passenger and air brake endorsements, or a Class C license or CDL permit.
Also required is a certificate proving current state school bus driver certification issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
To attract more candidates for the open bus driver positions, KISD increased the starting pay for the positions last semester.
A non-CDL bus driver starts at $12.21 per hour, according to the KISD pay range schedule for 2017-2018. Other bus drivers — on six- or eight-hour shifts — start at $13.64 per hour.
In contrast, Copperas Cove Independent School District has just three bus driver vacancies, while maintaining a fleet of nearly 100 drivers, according to Wendy Sledd, CCISD spokeswoman.
Requirements to be a CCISD bus driver include being at least 18 years old, able to pass an alcohol and drug test, as well as an annual exam, be able to complete the required training, be able to use maps and GPS to follow routes, be able to manage student behavior, and have the ability to communicate effectively, said Gary Elliott, CCISD director of support services.
“All drivers receive excellent pay and benefits,” Elliott said. “The starting salary is $12.63 per hour, and drivers are guaranteed 25 hours per week. In addition, drivers can earn extra pay by driving for school sponsored trips.”
CCISD bus drivers receive paid health insurance and employer paid life insurance. Drivers who are hired and remain with the district for at least one year receive a $400 bonus. A CCISD employee who refers an individual for employment that is hired as a driver receives a $200 finder’s fee if that driver remains with the job for six months.
SPECIAL ED BUS ISSUES
KISD’s shortage of bus drivers continues to have implications for students, especially special education students, according to Stephanie Moody, mother of a special needs first-grader at Saegert Elementary School.
Consistently during the 2017-2018 school year, Moody’s daughter Samantha has arrived late to school because the special education bus does not pick her up on time.
“The bus is supposed to have Sam to school no later than 8:30; anything after 8:30 is not acceptable,” Moody said. “She shouldn’t miss any educational time.”
The Saegert staff “thought that since they were excusing this time that there was no need to fix the problems or to even notify me that there was a problem,” Moody said.
When classes resumed after winter break, the problem persisted. On Jan. 2, Samantha’s bus arrived to pick her up at 8:55 a.m, Moody said. On Jan. 3, the bus arrived to pick her up at 8:35 a.m, meaning Samantha continued to miss time in the classroom.
The driver of that special education bus informed Moody additional students have been added to the route since the new year, meaning the potential for her daughter’s late arrival to school continues.
In response to Moody’s concerns, Abbott provided a spreadsheet showing electronic records of the special education bus arrivals at Saegert from the first day of school through Nov. 16. “This report clearly shows the total late time for the first nearly three months of school was 6 hours, 32 minutes,” Abbott said.
The spreadsheet data indicates, over 56 school days, Moody’s daughter was late 32 times, ranging from 1 minute to 36 minutes. The average of those late arrivals was over 12 minutes.
That data does not include the time it takes for Moody’s daughter to get off the bus, go through the office to have the tardiness excused, and proceed to class, Moody said.
“This is a documented problem,” Moody said. “These talks have been recorded at the campus level.”
Moody has discussed the situation with the Saegert principal, vice principal and her daughter’s teacher. “Nothing has been presented to make up missed time for Samantha. I have asked more times that I can count for a resolution.”
Within the past week, Moody requested an admission, review, and dismissal, or ARD, meeting with Saegert staff. Moody said the Saegert vice principal called in response to this request, telling Moody “district administration told her this was taken care of and she said it was out of her hands entirely.”
On Thursday, a different KISD bus came to pick up Moody’s daughter for school, without Moody being informed.
Friday morning, the regular bus picked up Moody’s daughter, again without notification to Moody of any change.
“The whole thing is so tiring,” Moody said.
“We would continue to urge that the parent discuss the matter directly with the school leadership so that the school can continue to work hard to meet the needs of her student,” Abbott said.
KISD will also continue to actively recruit bus drivers.