Nearly 50 Killeen Independent School District bus drivers in an overflowing crowd occupied KISD headquarters Tuesday night as dialogue on a growing workplace dilemma developed.
Dozens of transportation department employees wearing red shirts advocated for a solution to a growing bus driver shortage. Killeen ISD has seen as many as 80 bus driver vacancies in recent months.
A grievance appeal was made Tuesday night by representatives of the Killeen Educators Association after an official complaint of adverse effects from a growing employee shortage was dismissed in recent months. School officials claim the grievance was not made in a timely manner.
Board President Corbett Lawler said the bus driver dilemma is a must-have conversation despite the fact the appeal was denied by board members.
“Something is wrong in the bus department issue that’s causing the problems we have, and something needs to be done,” Lawler said.
The board president said talk between KEA members and Superintendent John Craft are underway to discuss solutions, but he was not specific on what potential action could stem from those conversations. Lawler also said the $3 raise up from the standard $14 per hour pay may not solve the vacancy issue as KEA has requested.
“This problem is not a new one,” said President of Killeen Educators Association Rick Beaulé. “We have drivers driving double or triple routes because of the shortage. We appreciate the efforts the district has made. Unfortunately, it’s not making the difference it needs to make.”
Related to the shortage, Chief Human Resources Officer Steve Cook said a recently implemented incentive program for bus drivers is helping to retain employees. Drivers can make an extra $2.99 per hour every nine weeks if they have a clean driving record and exhibit quality service, among other stipulations.
“I think it’s a great program. It meets our needs and provides that incentive for the drivers,” Cook said. So far, 156 drivers have earned this incentive, according to Chief Communication Officer Terry Abbott.
In other business, the board approved new school staffing levels for the next school year in the board meeting.
By a unanimous vote, the school board approved district staff changes for the 2019-20 school year, which include a reduction of 42 middle school teachers. Superintendent John Craft said this is due to the return to a seven-period day in middle school, down from eight periods.
No employees are being laid off as a result of the move, according to KISD. Rather, positions will be closed as employees leave the district.
About 45 “campus facilitators” will be added across the district to coordinate special education services and Section 504 services for students, including about 28 at the elementary level. 504 Services prohibits discrimination based upon disability.
Facilitators will help with scheduling Section 504 meetings, which currently ties up school principals for an average of an hour-and-a-half each meeting, according to Craft. The campus facilitators will be “specialized, focused staff,” the superintendent said in a March 26 workshop.