Charlotte’s school bus drivers’ wages rise to cope with shortage

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Councilor Sweet Flake, far left, and Principal Danielle Belton wave to cars dropping off children on the first day of school at Paw Creek Elementary School on August 25, 2021 in Charlotte.

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Schools in Charlotte-Mecklenburg are still short of dozens of bus drivers almost two months after the start of the school year, despite aggressive recruitment efforts, including the organization of several job fairs and the offering of bonuses.

Now, the school district will increase the hourly wages of drivers in the hope that they can attract more staff. On Tuesday, the Board of Education unanimously approved the starting salary increase from $ 15.75 per hour to $ 17.75.

CMS staff said it would take $ 4.9 million to cover the increase. District leaders say the pay is more competitive as districts across the state and country are experiencing a shortage of bus drivers.

Adam Johnson, executive director of transportation for the district, said the increase means CMS bus drivers will be the highest paid in the state. The new salaries will take effect on November 1.

“This will put us in a place to once again attract some of the people who have left us over the past two months,” Johnson said.

According to a presentation at Tuesday’s board meeting, there are 56 vacant positions in CMS and a total of 1,300 bus driver positions across North Carolina. District leaders said approved employee leaves and absences also affect daily bus routes. Since July 1, the number of employee departures has increased.

In August, before the start of the school year, the Observer reported that CMS had nearly 80 vacant bus driver positions, with the number changing almost daily. At the time, the district employed 890 drivers.

“To our bus drivers over there, God bless you,” said Board Chair Elyse Dashew. “We can’t have a school if we can’t get the kids to school. … To all those who are committed to driving our children to school and to school, we need you.

CMS took action in March in anticipation of a driver shortage, including establishing a recruitment task force and ridership survey, optimizing routes and capacity, and hosting job fairs. and bus lessons. Applicants with a commercial driver’s license were tracked on an expedited basis, and recruitment and retention bonuses of $ 1,000 were announced in August.

CMS shortages beyond pilots

The understaffing at CMS goes beyond bus drivers. Finding enough substitute teachers continues to be a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the vacant teaching positions. There are 83 unfilled teaching positions.

The district human resources department is launching a visiting teacher initiative in 42 schools. Positions are full-time, paid positions that are dedicated to a particular school. Visiting teachers will be used to cover vacancies and teacher absences when a replacement is not available and will provide additional classroom support as needed.

Visiting teachers will earn a salary of $ 150 per day, plus fringe benefits, working any day students are present in schools. The minimum requirements are the same as a daily substitute: a high school diploma and applicants must be at least 21 years old.

The district encourages current school volunteers to apply.

CMS registration declining

As the district works to address shortages, last week CMS announced its 20-day enrollment was 140,406 for the 2021-22 school year. This is an increase of 334 students from last school year. The expected enrollment for this school year was 143,856.

“All current teaching and pedagogical support positions will be maintained,” said a manager of the CMS communications team, “although some adjustments will occur in order to provide appropriate staff in schools that have the most. need”.

This story was originally published October 12, 2021 7:59 pm.

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