During their May 23 meeting, the East Washington School Board approved a longevity bonus for bus drivers.
“In an effort to keep and attract bus drivers, corporations can give longevity bonuses to drivers if they stay,” said Superintendent Dennis Stockdale. “What we’re hoping is that it will keep and attract drivers, but also, this could encourage other employees to think, ‘If I get my driving license, I could get a longevity bonus.’”
The bonuses would be between $150 and $750 yearly, as long as funding is available. For several months now, Transportation Director Greg Hopkins has reported a need for bus drivers.
Stockdale said the total amount would be only $8,800, but that much was saved this year by Hopkins driving a bus route every day since January.
“We’re using the money he saved us for the longevity,” said Stockdale. “If we get to where we can’t fund it, then we can’t give it, but if we can fund it annually, we’ll give that … Right now, we’re giving it at no increase to our salary line in the transportation operating budget.”
Stockdale said something had to be done to encourage bus drivers to stay with the school because the number of drivers stands to drop and the school is considering combining a route to make up for it.
“[Hopkins] has a daunting task, figuring that out," he said. "That’s one of the things our parents need to understand — we have good bus drivers. They get them to school and home safely. They do a great job. Nothing is perfect. Kids aren’t perfect. We know all that, but we have to quit running bus drivers off. If you ask a bus driver the number one reason why they’re not driving, what is it, Greg?”
“Parents,” Hopkins replied.
“It’s a lot of the backlash they’re getting from parents,” said Stockdale. “If a child’s in danger or a bus driver is mistreating a child, [that’s one thing] but there’s a lot of things parents need to understand. The first question they need to ask themselves is if it’s an emergency situation? Is a child in danger? Some of the stuff we hear, bus drivers get tired of dealing with it. I get it. What I don’t want to have to do is combine routes or have to extend walking boundaries. We’re not in a good position for walking boundaries. There’s a lot of that we’ll have to take into consideration if we can’t get drivers.”
“And that’s not all parents,” said Hopkins. “It just takes a few, constantly. I won’t say some of the things I’ve been told by parents about bus drivers. But on some situations, they just don’t understand. They can’t monitor everything completely at all times, and yeah, we do make mistakes. ‘Maybe I was wrong and Susie didn’t throw that, but when I looked up in that one split-second, it looked like it.’ But they don’t call in and talk nicely with us.”
Stockdale said, along with the on-campus matters that surround students during the school day, bus drivers also handle the off-campus matters that impact students on the road.
“They’ve got cars coming and people running stop arms … I just want to say our bus drivers do a tremendous job and to be able to do this longevity for them, I hope this will make a difference for those who might be considering quitting, maybe say ‘They’re being appreciative, so I’m going to stay,’ or ‘They care about their drivers — I want to drive there.’”
The longevity pay motion passed unanimously.
For more about the new longevity pay measures for bus drivers at East Washington, see tonight's Salem Leader!