Who’s In the Driver’s Seat? Pay, Disrespect Exacerbate Bus Driver Shortage

Two months into the school year, phones at Loudoun school administration offices continue to light up with complaints from parents about late buses, long rides, and aging buses breaking down while students are on board.

Administrators have pointed to a severe bus driver shortage as a major factor. The division has 552 bus drivers and is short between 80 and 95 drivers, depending on the day. School systems nationwide are having a tougher time attracting people to the bus driver’s seat—a part-time job that can be stressful and doesn’t pay much.

In Loudoun, pay starts at $18.10 an hour, and most contracts are for four hours a day. Drivers start as early as 5 a.m., work for a couple of hours, have a few hours off, and then return for an afternoon shift.

“It’s hard to find people who can do that split shift,” Assistant Superintendent of Support Services Kevin Lewis said. “This is a demanding job. … It takes a special person to drive a school bus.”

Figures from neighboring jurisdictions show that the driver shortage is worse in Loudoun. Prince William County Public Schools has 14 vacancies out of 760 total positions. Fairfax County Public Schools has 75 vacancies, with 1,289 drivers currently on the payroll.

Many drivers say Loudoun’s shortage is a symptom of a larger problem within the school system’s Transportation Department. Loudoun Now spoke to a dozen drivers who cited low wages and high stress, turnover in leadership, and a lack of respect as reasons so many have resigned or retired.

In the past two years, 203 bus drivers, substitute drivers, trainers and attendants have left, according to the school system. In that time, 132 have been hired on.

Jennifer O’Dell, who has been driving buses in Loudoun for about 13 years, said the pay, the rising cost of insurance and an overall feeling that she and her colleagues are not appreciated has her looking for other jobs.

“They’ve given us fliers to recruit people,” she said. “No, I can’t recruit people—not in good conscience.”


Smaller Pay Checks

For a majority of drivers, the pay increases the School Board has approved in recent years has not kept pace with increasing health care costs and required contributions to the Virginia Retirement System.

Sandy Ashby, a Loudoun school bus driver for 39 years, was brought to tears when asked about her job earlier this week. “I love it. I really do love it. But it’s becoming harder to stay.”

She showed Loudoun Now a pay stub from September 2006 and a pay stub from this month. She brings home $90 less per month now. “Meanwhile, everything else becomes more expensive. People can’t afford to live on that.”

Stacey Ahmed said she’s also taking home less per pay check than when she was first hired 10 years ago. “I get up at 5 in the morning to drive the most precious cargo in Loudoun County, and this is how we’re treated,” she said. “The kids’ smiles make the job worth it, but the disrespect we are given is so sad.”

A Loudoun County school bus drives through heavy fog Monday morning. [Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now]
A Loudoun County school bus drives through heavy fog Monday morning. [Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now]
Both Ashby and Ahmed have opted for the more expensive of two health care options. The school system used to subsidize the costlier plan, called Point of Service, so that employees paid the same premiums no matter which of the plans they chose. The School Board changed that in 2013 when it was faced with finding several million dollars in savings. It’s estimated the change has saved the school system $8 million a year. Employees who switched to the less expensive Open Access Plus plan actually have lower premiums, but premiums went up for those who stayed on the costlier POS plan.

The family plan Ahmed has costs $2,079.84 per month. The school system covers $1,479.34 and she pays $600.50. Her office visit co-pays will rise to $50 come January. “When I first started, I was paying less than $300 a month for a family of five and co-pays were $5,” she said.

It’s a similar story for 13-year driver O’Dell, of Sterling Park, whose take home pay is less than $200 a week. Just more than $300 of her bi-weekly paycheck goes to the POS health care plan. She said she opts for the more expensive option because her husband is border line diabetic and has high blood pressure. “Heaven forbid something happens. I’d rather have it covered rather than trying to figure out how to pay another bill,” she said.

A few years ago, as the School Board looked for more savings in its budget, it floated the idea of cutting health care benefits for part-time employees. But Lewis told them that would exclude most bus drivers from benefits, and as it is, the division has a hard time attracting enough drivers. In 2014, the board instead adopted a new policy that employees must work at least 21 hours a week to qualify for health care benefits. How much the employee pays for coverage is now on a sliding scale, based on how many hours an employee works per week.

Lack of Respect,
Lack of Accountability

The Loudoun Education Association received so many complaints from bus drivers this year that in May it formed a transportation caucus with the goal of better communicating concerns and possible solutions with school system administrators. The association is an advocacy group for the county’s school employees, and about half of the county’s 600 bus drivers are members.

“The words they use to describe how they feel are ‘second class citizens,’” said Christy Sullivan, UniServ director at the LEA. “They feel like they are the lowest on the totem pole and they’re trying to dig themselves out of the dirt. I’m not sure the school division is taking this serious yet.”

LEA received a slew of complaints from drivers and others in the Transportation Department after C-4 explosive material was discovered on a school bus at the school system’s main garage in March following a CIA training exercise. Sullivan said employees were told to stay on site while a bomb squad swept the facility.

A Loudoun County K-9 unit sweeps the school system's main garage Wednesday. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)
A Loudoun County K-9 unit sweeps the school system’s main garage Wednesday. (Renss Greene/Loudoun Now)

“Any other worksite or school would’ve been evacuated,” Sullivan said. Some of the employees who were told to stay put were military veterans battling PTSD, she added. “Now they’re sitting between bomb material and fuel tanks being told you can’t leave. We had people quit over that. They’re in therapy. They could not walk back in that building.”

Another frustration for veteran drivers was the recent news that the retirement bonus for longtime drivers that was once $5,000 had been cut in half.

“It’s one thing on top of another and now they wonder why they can’t hire anybody,” Sullivan said.

Several employees said that some of the more senior drivers were fired or forced to retire in recent years, as the directors in charge changed and looked to trim budgets.

Danielle McGuinn drove a bus for Loudoun schools for 15 years before she was fired in June 2015. She said she had a perfect driving record and not one complaint from a parent. Alvin Hampton, transportation director for five years, visited her bus twice to thank her in person for a job well done. Months after he retired in September 2014, McGuinn’s evaluations stated that she was not meeting job requirements and she was let go at the end of the school year.

McGuinn listed the names of eight other veteran drivers who she said were fired or forced to retire that same year. Several declined requests for an interview from Loudoun Now for fear of retribution.

McGuinn said that she’s not speaking up to get her job back; she makes more and works better hours now as a bookkeeper. But she wants to shine a light on the issue to help other drivers and Loudoun students who are ultimately effected. She said there needs to be accountability for transportation supervisors and a less subjective evaluation process.

“They are forcing people out on personal vendettas and it’s going unchecked,” McGuinn said. “Parents are calling, they’re frustrated, and not one of them knows they fired some of their best drivers.”

Lewis said he could not speak to specific personnel issues, but said there is no truth to any claims that drivers were let go to save money. “No one has ever been removed from a position based on trying to reduce the budget. … Our focus has been to get drivers in the seats.”

The improved economy has opened up more options for certified licensed drivers, he later said, including higher paying jobs like driving tractor trailers.

Solving the Problem

Kids who leave near North Fork and Shelburne Glebe roads in western Loudoun were up early Monday as they navigated changes to their bus schedules. [Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now]
Kids who leave near North Fork and Shelburne Glebe roads in western Loudoun were up early Monday as they navigated changes to their bus schedules. [Douglas Graham/Loudoun Now]
School Board member Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin) saw firsthand what’s prompting some of the complaints from bus drivers and families when he rode a school bus last Wednesday. He boarded the bus at 7:15 a.m. in Taylorstown and arrived at Woodgrove High School at 8:44 a.m.

“It was an hour and a half—and that was on a morning without traffic or any accidents. These kids are arriving late at school, and that’s concerning,” he said. “Apparently, it’s worse in the afternoon.”

DeKenipp recently met with new Transportation Director Michael Brown to tell him that he needs to let the School Board know what it will take to fix the problem. He realizes that improvements will likely take more money, but he is willing to make it a priority when budget talks begin in January.

“We’ve got to hear from them what the needs are. These parents aren’t asking for much; they’re asking to get their kids to school in under an hour. At the end of the day their concerns are all valid,” he said. “There are solutions. We all need to work together to make sure we solve this problem.”

Brown recently sent an automated call to parents encouraging them to consider driving a bus, and 90 people responded to the call. And so far this month, eight new hires have entered the training program, which takes four to six weeks to complete.

In an interview Tuesday, Lewis listed specific changes he plans to recommend for next fiscal year’s budget in hopes of attracting and retaining drivers. He and Brown will likely propose changes to the salary structure, the benefits packages and the length of the contract day for new hires.

“We need to make driving for LCPS more attractive,” he said.

That means creating an atmosphere of mutual respect, he added. “Our goal is to showcase the profession and let our drivers know how important they are and how much we appreciate what they do every day.”

dnadler@loudounnow.com

24 thoughts on “Who’s In the Driver’s Seat? Pay, Disrespect Exacerbate Bus Driver Shortage

  • 2016-10-20 at 12:49 pm
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    The county is still lying about firing & forcing drivers out, huh? Let me tell you Daniele McQuinn is telling the truth! The supervisors running transportation are with out a doubt firing people they dont like regardless of how good a driver is. Why is LCPS letting these supervisors fire people when they have this high of a shortage? How about someone ask Kevin Lewis THAT question?!?!?! I challenge LCPS with investigating these evaluations and seeing how corrupt it is. Here is some interesting facts:

    The supervisors firing people ARE BUS DRIVERS who got promoted. They get to evaluate coworkers they drove side by side with for 10, 15, 20 years before they became the boss. So back when Sue & Mary were drivers Mary got real mad at Sue. Mary hates Sue. Now 5 year later Mary gets to fill out a piece of paper saying if Sue is a “good driver” or a “bad” one. WHO THINKS THAT IS A GOOD IDEA?

    The tablets. One million plus tax dollars bought them. They were never used. Never. They are in a storage shed.

    In June the county already had a driver shortage and had a new high school opening in September. The transportation supervisors fired more people though. Why are you firing more drivers in June when you’re short already and have new schools opening in 2 months? No one questioned this?

    They are lying through their teeth to the parents. Parents whose tax dollars are paying corrupt employee’s salary. Time for the parents to demand action. It is the only way anything will change.

    • 2016-10-20 at 7:01 pm
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      Right on the money with that one BellaLynn75! I too have been bullied by a past school mate who apparently was jealous of me in high school. I documented stuff from day one and took it to supervisors who did nothing because they were buddies and if they did look into it, their Buddy would have been fired. The good ol’ boys club needs to be torn apart and reconstructed from the ground up. When a new supervisor comes in they don’t know all the history and therefore they don’t have an agenda.

  • 2016-10-20 at 10:31 am
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    Kevin Lewis said, “The improved economy has opened up more options for certified licensed drivers, including higher paying jobs like driving tractor trailers.” Does anyone know of any LCPS drivers who left the position of school bus driver to drive a tractor trailer?

    • 2016-10-21 at 11:22 am
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      NO! The truth is a tractor trailer driver would need a different class of a CDL and different endorsements to drive a tractor trailer. This is just more of the BS and cover up of the truth. In a nut shell pay more of the benefits and keep the benefits that were in place from when Hatrick left in 2014.

  • 2016-10-19 at 8:15 pm
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    Wow, I could go on and on about this subject. I will say this. The problems are systemic and are pervasive across all of support services, It has become a cultural problem and a slight raise in pay, or a slight reduction in the benefit load will not fix it. The core problem stems from the School Boards attitude of treating support workers as if they are a commodity that can be replaced, or have little value. Ask any support person what one phrase they have come to despise coming from the School Board and you will find its “We Need to keep the money in the Class Room”. Surprise folks you can have the best paid teachers in the area, the best and latest electronic toys, But if there is no heat, The bathrooms do not flush, or there are not enough cafeteria workers to serve lunch and the Kids cannot get to school because of a shortage of drivers it does not matter how well much money goes into the class room. This is a complete system this board must acknowledge this and provide and value all members of the system.

    • 2016-10-20 at 5:51 am
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      Longtimedriver, but come on, three board members have spouses who teach in the classroom or counsel students (Hornberger, Turgeon, DeKenipp). If the board members spent more money on the support service personnel like you, they wouldn’t be able to pay their own families as much!!!

      It sure is a good thing we have a corrupt Commonwealth Attorney who won’t even enforce the conflict of interest law that requires these board members to disclose personal interests like their spouses’ salary every time they vote on a budget issue, eh. Maybe if these three had to disclose they were voting themselves a pay raise with their actions, the votes might turn out differently. And it sure is a good thing we’ve never had a local newspaper even willing to call such corrupt politicians on blatant violations of the law. Long live corruption!

      • 2016-10-20 at 1:02 pm
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        SGP
        I do not think its a grand conspiracy being perpetrated to enrich a few. I think its rather a case of elected officials who at some point feel that they know more than the very professionals they have hired to do a specific job. Perhaps a knowledge fairy comes down and plunks them on the head endowing them with infinite knowledge about all things school related when they are elected I do not know. But what they seem not to understand is that the school system is one very large very interconnected system where messing with one part causes unintended consequence in another totally unrelated area. Decisions are being made without fully understanding the ramifications, many times over the protest of Staff who actually know better. Case in point is the Driver Shortage Dr. Hatrick (love him or hate him he understood the school system) told the board that if they insisted in cutting pay, hours or benefit load that They better get a cdl because they would all be driving! The board needs to cut back on the autocratic nature of their service, listen to staff, and work at creating a environment where is “OK” to bring bad news, or to even school them in how things work. Right now its Fear, Retribution, and what ever you do don’t make a mistake. One of the best quote I have heard this year is a supervisor stating “We are all just one very human mistake from termination”. Thats not a recipe for a quality organization or a committed one.

        • 2016-10-20 at 8:36 pm
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          Longtimedriver, I agree with virtually everything you said. However, I would note that much of this is driven by a lack of transparency. Backroom deals. Conflicts of interest. Jill Turgeon was anything but subtle when she complained that switching to a (normal in industry I might add) one-week delay between timecards and paychecks would cause undue hardship not just to those earning less than $50K/yr but to a family like hers. It just so happens Turgeon failed to mention her spouse gets a (greater than $50K/yr) paycheck from LCPS while Jill is co-owner of a private school competing with LCPS. I’m not sure how one has a larger, undisclosed conflict of interest than that.

          At least Eric DeKenipp rode a school bus recently to understand the problem. Most of these board members simply don’t understand leadership. When employees see “leaders” lie, mislead, undermine their supervisors and make backroom deals, nobody has any confidence that the same won’t happen to them.

          It’s funny. I lost my court FOIA case in Loudoun’s court because a biased judge would do anything to protect them. But LCPS (and especially LCSB) lost the overall campaign. Their own employees saw leaders lie under oath. It was revealed they wantonly defrauded the US Dept of Education. And LCPS’ policy of coercing students who fail the SOL to retake it solely for the benefit of administrators demonstrates how none of them really cares about the kids. Getting away was not a “win” for the district. It accelerated the decaying moral that permeates that organization. Nobody has any confidence that the “leadership” will ever do the right thing.

          Bottom line is LCSB should start being transparent. Identify problems be it massive driver shortage, having no textbooks for going on 10 years, or having students who don’t believe teachers care about student welfare (see the PISA results). You can’t fix problems when you just cover them up. But when one only cares about getting good press (the Superintendent’s contract literally requires him to promote the school board) this is a predictable outcome.

  • 2016-10-19 at 4:40 pm
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    I agree that drivers are paid too little to be working a split shift in this county. In addition to addressing the pay and benefits, there is a very simple and common sense solution to reducing the number of drivers that is needed as well as the overall cost. I will use Round Hill Elementary School as an example.

    FACT: LCPS currently, and justifiably, requires a large walking area around the schools where students are required to walk, (I think it might be a mile in general) with just one crossing guard at the busiest intersection. See sample walk zone map at the following link: http://www.lcps.org/cms/lib4/VA01000195/Centricity/domain/129/walk%20zones/fy17%20walk%20zones/RHLWalkZone16_17.pdf

    PROBLEM: For middle and high school students in this same walk zone, LCPS buses make probably 10 – 15 different stops. (I might be off on the number, however likely not by much) The buses pull up to these multiple stops, hold up traffic and spend time at each stop, waiting for students to get on the bus and be seated. (Side rant, many times throughout the county, the buses sit there holding up traffic and wait for a student that is just coming out of a house up the street and taking their sweet old time getting to the bus. If they can’t get to their bus stops on time, LEAVE THEM!)

    SOLUTION: Let the Middle and High School students walk that same mile to a single bus stop. Bus (or buses) pulls up, stops in one place, everybody boards and bus pulls off. Furthermore, many of the Middle School stops are picking up very near the time that the elementary school starts. Why not let the Middle School students walk all the way to the school (and utilize the crossing guard already in place) and get right on their bus at the bus loop? This process can be repeated in subdivisions throughout the county, even in areas OUTSIDE of the walk zones for all grade levels. You can have large neighborhoods that are not walk zones due to distance from a school or a highway between. Why not have one mile “Bus Stop Zones” throughout the county where they pickup at the neighborhood HOA pools or other common areas?

    SAVINGS / BENEFITS:
    1. This should require less drivers and buses, as the same buses in many instances could drop off at a school a little early and then go to another “Bus Stop Zone” stop and make a second or even third run to that same school.
    2. Less fuel would be used and less wear and tear on the bus, brakes, etc. due to the repeated stopping and starting.
    3. Less emissions due to less repeated starting and stopping.
    4. More needed physical activity for students to get to their bus stops.
    5. Less frustration from the public from being behind a bus that is making repeated stops. (and less emissions and fuel savings for those drivers as well)
    6. Less miles on buses, increasing the life cycle of the buses and reducing the replacement costs.
    7. Increased safety due to frustrated drivers behind the buses making stupid driving decisions to pass, etc. due to repeated stops.

    I realize that this will not work for many of the rural routes, however somebody please tell me how this could generate significant savings in the hundreds of cookie cutter subdivisions throughout our county.

  • 2016-10-19 at 3:45 pm
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    Who assumes the liability when our kids get injured when the substitute bus driver, teacher(s) and Principal all know that small children are riding on the floors, as 3 small kids per seat are filled, of the buses when their primary driver is absent from work and they are trying to double the loads?! This happened on my child’s bus very recently, fortunately with no injuries, but running very late. The bus still wouldn’t accommodate all students, but who in their right mind would allow a bus to leave the school in this situation? I commend the regular driver, as she is a blessing, but heads should be rolling and not just a scapegoat substitute bus driver.

  • 2016-10-19 at 2:56 pm
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    The entire department needs an overhaul. They are operating with an antiquated business model. There is no other system in the area that has near the problems that LCPS is currently having with Transportation. I hear there is quite an interesting story behind the original tablet purchase….

  • 2016-10-19 at 2:34 pm
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    This article touches on only one group of LCPS employees that are given inadequate pay rates, no pay increases, and decreasing benefits (healthcare and otherwise). ALL classified employees are seeing some the same situations described above, and the bottom line is that LCPS is NOT hiring enough, and they’re also not being realistic when assigning salary ranges for skilled trade and classified positions that are posted. Throw on not giving current employees wage increases that even come close to covering the rising cost of insurance and other items (that is if the employees are given a raise at all), and you have large groups of people who are not feeling appreciated or taken care of by their employer. There are not enough people to cover the majority of the classified positions in the school system, meanwhile the admin building is so jam packed full of employees, word is that they are requesting a NEW building, paid by guess who? The sad reality is that there are a large amount of people sitting in an office on Education Drive with no real concept of how their decisions are affecting not only the employees of LCPS, but ultimately the children and families of those children that attend these schools. This article highlights the latest consequence in a long line of questionable and poorly executed decisions. While no body is perfect, I would at least like to believe that peoples safety, the livelihood of employees and the impact on community would be towards the top on the list of considerations when making decisions. Perhaps I am wrong.

    • 2016-10-19 at 4:58 pm
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      I can’t speak to whether the current rates are sufficient for the skilled trade positions. But it is inaccurate to suggest that employees haven’t gotten pay raises. The 8%+ increase in budget coupled with the 5%+ per pupil cost was enormous. Employees definitely received salary increases and COLA increases.

      The rates may still be misaligned but overall, LCPS rates are very competitive. Can you show the data and comparable positions?

      • 2016-10-20 at 10:36 am
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        I can assure you they are not, as my spouse is an LCPS employee. That should also answer your other question about if I can show you proof that employees have not been getting any raises in the past or insufficient raises (far less than cost of living) in some recent years. Those are absolute facts.

        • 2016-10-20 at 8:50 pm
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          leesburgtownier, let’s see if we can agree on what happened over the last two years. Do you agree that:

          1. Each LCPS employee received a step increase between FY15, FY16 and FY17? So a Step 15 employee in Fy15 (ended June 30, 2015) is now a Step 17 employee for FY17 (ends in June 30, 2017)?

          2. Thus, these employees received about a 2.5% pay raise each year. Here is the FY15 classified salary scale. Here is the FY16 classified salary scale. Here is the FY17 classified salary scale. A step 15 (level 5) employee received $15.86/hr in FY15. After being promoted to a Step 17, that employee received $17.02/hr in FY17. That is a 7.3% increase over 2 years; however, 2% of that is artificial as districts are required to have employees contribute that 2% to their pensions. That’s still a 2.6% increase each year.

          3. In addition, employee subsidies for health care have increased each year. That means the amount of $$ you receive from LCPS to cover your health care premium has increased. The fact that health care costs are skyrocketing is a separate issue (mainly caused by folks using more health care services). If gas went up 10x, you couldn’t say LCPS cut your salary because they didn’t adjust your salary for gas now could you?

          Since you are anonymous, why don’t you post the hourly rate from your paystub in FY15 and the rate in FY17. Then, we can verify your claims. I think might be mistaken.

  • 2016-10-19 at 1:45 pm
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    Year after year I am disappointed with our school district. I started out with a positive attitude and supporting the district. Now as I continue to see funding and services cut or at low levels of efficiency, it’s very difficult to defend the choices and actions of LCPS administrators and school board members.

    I don’t know the details of what’s going on with the tablets mentioned in Fed Up’s post but it doesn’t sound like the equipment and/or the plan of support and training for the equipment was well researched.

    It’s far from the first time I’ve heard about negative issues in our district that are not being addressed in an effective way and I’m getting tired of trying to figure out why LCPS can’t seem to handle running their business. Maybe we can start by replacing some of our senior staff members who have become too comfortable in their positions to care or learn new ways of doing things.

  • 2016-10-19 at 11:42 am
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    Fed Up, I don’t quite folllow. First, I agree that the market will dictate the compensation of bus drivers. If LCPS doesn’t pay enough, they will lose drivers and have to pay more to entice replacements.

    However, suggesting that drivers are quitting because insurance premiums are taken out of their paycheck doesn’t make sense. Yes, family healthcare costs in excess of $15K/year. When the employer covers that, it’s an additional $15K in compensation. When the employee must pay for it, their “take home pay” is the net amount of pay after the healthcare premium has been removed.

    But you suggest drivers who only get $10/wk in take home pay will quit. Why? Unless they have another job, they won’t have health care. They would have to purchase that on their own.

    In reality, LCPS shouldn’t pay any of its bus drivers health premiums. Any compensation planned as health care premiums should be converted to salary and given to the drivers. Let the drivers sign up on the Obamacare health exchanges. For low-wage workers, they will get 90%+ of their health care costs covered on the exchange. For high income households (spouse gets coverage), they can use their spouse’s employer-provided coverage. It doesn’t make sense for LCPS to provide health care to these drivers, either for LCPS or the drivers themselves. The drivers will get more compensation if the pay was in the form of a salary.

    Where am I going wrong?

    • 2016-10-19 at 1:26 pm
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      virginia_sgp, neither one of us have enough information from Fed Up’s post to make a fair assessment of what actually needs to change in terms of comp/benefits for drivers. My takeaway is that LCPS has decreased compensation (bonuses), increased the cost share of benefits (health insurance), and whether right or wrong, it is becoming not worth it for people to take the job of bus driver. If we had competent leadership, they would’ve been able to foresee this trend years ago, and looked for ways to make these positions attractive to the right people. Either the value proposition is no longer there, or it is not being effectively communicated. Whichever it is, I hold leadership accountable for addressing this way before we have a 20% vacancy rate in this very important position.

      • 2016-10-19 at 4:37 pm
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        rural_parent, agree that more information should be provided. At the last two budget sessions, I have asked for the following:

        1. LCPS to communicate to employees how much they are receiving in health care benefits so they understand the issue. It’s not required by law to do so, but if LCPS adds $1500/yr in extra medical subsidies, the employees should understand that. The employee may have more deduction removed from their paycheck because insurance went up by $2000/yr overall.

        2. Make the health care policies explicit. Currently, we have high tech workers married to LCPS employees who don’t use the health care of their high tech employer. They use the family subsidy of LCPS. There are ways to discourage this leeching off of LCPS for families who have a spousal employer option. But you are correct. Until LCPS is transparent in their policies, we can’t properly evaluate them.

        The big issue with Obamacare is it encourages employers to dump employees onto the health exchange for both parties’ sake. Companies are not required to provide health care. They do have a penalty (about $2K/yr) if they don’t provide it to an employee. But the employer AND employee are much better off if the employer (i) pays the $2K fine to the feds, (ii) increases the employee’s salary by the remainder of their subsidy ($10K subsidy – $2K fine = $8K bump in salary). The employee then gets massive subsidies from the feds on the exchange if they are low paid workers. McKinsey even predicted this would happen with 50%+ of employers in a few years. Once folks catch on, it will be a flood.

        It appears the market has decided the compensation is not enough. Either that and/or LCPS is not casting a wide enough net and publicizing the actual total compensation. But that problem is not limited to bus drivers as Eric Hornberger has refused to publish total compensation (including pension benefit values) for fear it would hurt his ability to jack up his wife’s (LCPS employee) pay without the public noticing how much they really get comped.

    • 2016-10-19 at 2:53 pm
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      Any company that hires 5 or more employees must offer health care. With your way of thinking no one will drive a bus.

      • 2016-10-19 at 4:47 pm
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        Fed Up, I am not disputing your main point. Consider this example.

        1. Worker A makes $20K/yr in salary and $10K/yr in employer-provided healthcare subsidy.

        2. Worker A must pay $5K/yr in health premiums out of his own pocket for the LCPS health plan. Total cost of plan = $15K/yr.

        3. Worker A has a net pay of $15K/yr before taking out taxes and other costs.

        4. Worker B makes $20K/yr in salary and $10K/yr in employer-provided healthcare subsidy.

        5. Worker B has a smart company who drops the $10K/yr subsidy and increases salary to $27K/yr. Employer B also has to pay a $2K/yr fine to the feds. Overall Employer B saves $1k/yr.

        6. Worker B gets plan on healthcare exchange and gets massive subsidies from the US taxpayer. Worker B’s total premiums for the plan is $1500/yr (likely total out-of-pocket cost overall).

        7. Worker B now gets $27K/yr in salary and contributes $1500/yr to his healthcare. He is unquestionably better off than Worker A.

        Fed Up, I suggested LCPS get a clue and act like Employer B. Of course, they would have to hire knowledgeable staff and board members to make such determinations.

  • 2016-10-19 at 11:28 am
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    We’ve heard from over a hundred bus drivers – same stories of mistreatment and disrespect. How can Kevin Lewis just say “none of it is true” and expect to have any credibility?? The biggest problem is that no one has been behind the wheel of this department for a while now. The leadership changes have been constant, and the department is too large to effectively be managed by Kevin Lewis, along with all the other “Support Services” he is charged with. The driver compensation package needs to be addressed. If we are losing drivers to other opportunities, we have fallen behind and it needs to be fixed. To Sup. Eric Williams ~ Restructure the LCPS leadership team responsibilities – making it a flatter organization, hire an effective leader for the Transportation function, correctly align the compensation of bus drivers, and for heaven’s sake….INSTILL A CULTURE THAT TREATS THEM LIKE THE PROFESSIONALS THEY ARE! Doing so is FREE!

    • 2016-10-20 at 12:53 pm
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      Dont forget firing. A bunch of long term drivers have been fired on the whim of a supervisor. They fired more this past June even with the shortage. LCPS needs to check out these “whims” and quit firing senior people when you already dont have enough. So disgusting.

  • 2016-10-19 at 11:17 am
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    What parents are not told is the truth and nothing but the truth. When drivers started only a few years back, there were a lot of benefits and the reason the county was able to hire high quality bus drivers and have a surplus of drivers. When you are hired and told you will have great benefits that is what you expect. They are hiring now based on “great benefits” which really are not great and when drivers start and get their pay check after 2 weeks of being brow beaten by supervisors, being thrown up on, cleaning up throw up, cleaning up urine, feces, gum and trash on the floor, avoiding the careless drivers passing them, coming at them head on while they are busy texting instead of driving, keeping kids in their seats, breaking up fights, being disrespected by a majority of kids, getting no back on discipline with the kids when they act out, dealing with broken down buses and they finally get a pay check with $20.00 take home pay for a two week period that equals only $10.00 a week in take home pay, they quickly realize there are no great benefits after all for what they do. I know drivers who bring home less in their pay check in 2016 than they did in 2006. How is that possible? The insurance, they continue to put the cost on the bus drivers. This is not only the bus drivers but you lost a lot of great teachers for the same reasons of rising health care cost not being cover by the county. But yet Eric Williams was given a bonus for doing such a fabulous job!
    I remember the day when you had retired airline pilots, retired military and even retired navy seals for your drivers, most of them left when everything started being taken away from us in 2014 with the retiring of Hatrick. The system has continued to fall apart since then and now the parents are finally catching on.
    They continue to hire upper management staff to supervise the little Indians but there are not enough Indians to do the work. The cost of health care will be jumping up again on Jan. 1st, 2017, so look out you will have more drivers quitting when those pay checks come to light. Even though the routes are 4 to 5 hours you must be available to drive and go to “meetings” at the drop of a hat so having another job is very hard to manage. The reality is the routes are now about 6 to 8 hour routes due to the shortage of drivers.
    Supervisors are now driving buses so they can’t do their job, which in turn means the bus drivers can’t do their job in an efficient manner either. They can’t get out paper work to the drivers that have to do with safety issues and health sheets on students due to constantly driving. If there is an accident there is no one to go to the accident other than other county officials like the LC Rescue and police.
    The county wanted some of their best drivers to retire so they did huge cuts if you did not retire by June 30th, 2014. They promised retirement after only 5 years, and then changed that to 10 years, and then a year later changed it to 15 years and no longer includes spouses in the benefits for life after you retire. These are all the reasons I took the job just 4 short years ago and I’ve lost all of the things I was promised in 4 years! They continue to take away more and more with each passing year. As long as they continue to take away from the drivers and teachers they will continue to lose more and more. Each year we are told “well now your bonus when you retire will go from 5,000 to 2,500 unless you retire now,” so they retire. The reason you can’t keep drivers after training is because no one can live on $20.00 every two weeks in take home pay check, the gas to drive back and forth to the bus 2 times a day 5 days a week does not even cover our gas.
    I think every single board member should be required to pre-trip and ride with a bus driver AM and PM for an entire week, then let them come to you and tell the public how much we are overpaid. I doubt they will come away with that after an entire week of riding along, and make sure it is in Jan or Feb when it is negative wind chills in the dark while pre tripping the bus with the drivers.
    The School Board needs to do an emergency budget increase to pay more of the insurance for bus drivers now, or they will continue to lose more and more drivers. I don’t know about you, but most aspire to make more year after year for working for a company/county, not less and less with each passing year. The amount on the check is more and more each year with our below poverty raises, but when they increase the health care far beyond our raises, it results in less and less in the take home pay with each passing year.
    Mr. and Mrs. Board Members let me ask you, would you continue to stay at a job year after year and bring home less and less pay with each passing year while the cost of living continues to rise year after year? I think NOT!
    Another waste is our second set of tablets to log our hours in and out. The first set of tablets costing in the millions was a complete failure and removed from the buses before they even got off the ground. The county then bought a second set of “used” tablets from another county because they didn’t work for them. Why has the county spent millions on tablets for buses that don’t work and require more work out of the drivers to use them? They keep expecting more and more from us and continue to pay us less and less in take home pay. The tablet purchase the county made wasted more money that could have gone into paying more of our health care benefits. By the way the second set of tablets has been a nightmare and seems like in only a matter of time before they are removed from the buses as well.
    The clock is ticking the ball in your court now, do something about it before the entire system crumbles to the ground before your very eyes. I for one will be one of your many loyal bus drivers who will be quitting as soon as I reach my 5 year anniversary date unless you start paying a whole lot more to make up for the rising health care cost or pay 75% of my health care cost! Quit pretending to the public you don’t know why you can’t get bus drivers to stay or to hire now for the job!

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