Nearly 30 bus drivers attended last Monday's regular meeting of the Chesterfield County School Board where three drivers were allotted speaking time.
Issues of concern for bus drivers were overtime and their pay scale. But, with hardly little time since voicing their concerns, Superintendent John Williams and Superintendent for Operations, Transportation, Middle and Secondary Education Frank Patterson have resolved the problem.
“Five or six years ago the state gave bus drivers 30 minutes in the morning and afternoon to cover things like breakdowns and waiting at the school for students to unload,” Patterson said. This year, however, time sheets were changed and there was no place for that overtime to be posted. The result was no drivers were paid overtime.
According to bus driver Amanda Little, when new time sheets were issued, those 30 minutes were taken off. “Drivers lost 10 hours in overtime,” Little said. “We get no compensation for the overtime we put in.”
Overtime for bus drivers isn't only a result of bus breakdowns and waiting for students to unload, drivers are required to keep their buses clean. “Where is the cleanup time going?” driver Laurie Woods asked. “I take pride in my bus and my job. If you sweep your bus everyday you're looking at 30 minutes extra. Plus, over Christmas break it takes five to six hours to clean your bus - you have to wash it, wash the windows inside and out, and wipe the seats and all that. It takes a lot of time.
“In the winter we have to go out 20 minutes early to scrape ice off the bus windows,” Woods said. “It also takes longer to run the route if it's foggy, rainy or if there's other bad weather.
“We already pay $120 for our physicals every year, pay for our own CDL, and we pay for our own trash bags and tissues to wipe the noses of the children we transport.”
Driver Renee Adcock said back pay is due drivers from the first of the year. “Our time sheets are misleading because we don't just work from the time we leave our driveway to the time we get to school.”
Patterson said all bus drivers will receive back pay for the overtime they put in since the first of the year. “The board agreed to add two and one-half to three hours a week in time for the bus drivers,” he said. “That time is factored at time and a half. The state pays the hourly time for bus drivers, and the district will only have to pay the time and a half portion. This amount won't be a tremendous amount of money for the district.”
The board also asked Patterson to get pay scales for bus drivers from districts that border Chesterfield County. Patterson said a drivers' pay is based on years of experience and when district employees have received a cost of living increase bus drivers were included.
“The state and federal government have put a lot more on our drivers, and they are better prepared than ever, but, unfortunately, pay hasn't gone up with what is expected of drivers,” Patterson said. “Our goal is to pay drivers for every minute of time they are on the road and prep time.”
Chesterfield County employs 150 licensed bus drivers, 50 of which are substitute drivers.
“Our bus drivers transport at least 60 kids a day on a bus, and they are on the road alone,” Williams said. “These employees work hard and have as much responsibility for the safety and health of our kids as any other district employee. We want to make sure our bus drivers are adequately taken care of because we appreciate what they do.”
Karen P. Anderson may be reached at email@example.com.