School Board to Bus Drivers: We Hear You

Loudoun County School Board members told frustrated bus drivers and parents who filed into the board room Tuesday night that their concerns have been heard.

“We are taking this seriously,” School Board member Debbie Rose (Algonkian) said after hearing 15 speakers voice complaints about transportation issues.

Most of the speakers were bus drivers who said morale in the Transportation Department has never been so low. They cited a lack of respect and pay that isn’t keeping pace with the rising costs of health benefits.

The school system is short as many as 160 bus drivers. 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.

Annie Grazier, a bus dispatcher, told board members they should not be surprised that so many drivers have left. Changes in how the division’s health insurance options has meant, for those who choose the more expensive of two coverage options, they take home less pay than 10 years ago. Grazier said, while Loudoun bus drivers’ starts at $18.10 an hour, UPS drivers start at $21 an hour, and Old Dominion pays $23 an hour.

“Why would a CDL (commercial drivers license) holder become a school bus driver when they could go drive in the commercial sector,” she asked. “Before you can take care of anything else you need to take care of your personnel.”

At least two speakers read statements from drivers too afraid to speak negatively about the job publically.

Rose later said from the dais that she wants the drivers to feel like they can raise concerns with them. “We want to know.”

The Student Support and Services Committee, which Rose chairs, is working with the Support Services Department to come up with incentives to retrain and recruit drivers and is taking another look at compensation and benefits offered to drivers.

Rose also asked that administrators and teachers remind students to be respectful, not only within the four walls of the school building, but on the bus. “To the drivers she said, “I think you’re earning heavenly gold because that’s a hard job.”

Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin) said he’s eager to hear from senior staff what they need to fix the transportation problems. He asked for solutions in the long term, that could be included in next fiscal year’s budget, and in the short term this year. “I think we have some issues that need to be addressed sooner rather than later, and they cannot wait until next school year.”

Several parents also addressed the board about the bus rides that, for some students, have reached 90 minutes a day because of the driver shortage. Susana Calley, a Middleburg parent, said solutions cannot wait until next school year.

Board members asked that the public log their complaints and requests at webinter.lcps.org/ConcernRegistry, which will help the staff organize and address the concerns. “I heard over and over again that there’s a communication problem. This helps them address those concerns and get back to you,” Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) said. “We want to make sure you know your voices are being heard, by board members and staff.”

 

2 thoughts on “School Board to Bus Drivers: We Hear You

  • 2016-11-17 at 3:41 am
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    Let’s discuss the Network of Loudoun County. Loudoun County Board of Supervisors (NOT THE SCHOOL BOARD so much) has brought MAJOR problems to this County without even knowing it. When you are a “country setting” and have a sudden influx of “city folk” start building in every spot that didn’t have something on it AND you don’t have the brains to think ahead of the game, EVERYONE suffers. BECAUSE there was no real future plan for the amount of change, the “OLDER” folks ALLOWED the city folk to run things. Welllll, Now that you are in a pickle, IT IS TIME FOR “THE SCHOOL BOARD” BE INVITED TO WORK SIDE BY SIDE WITH THE “””LOUDOUN COUNTY BOARD of SUPERVISORS”””!!! I have almost 30 yrs in and LOVED my job. But now, I can’t even recommend this type of career path to my own daughter. AND YES! YOU HAVE TO BE COMMITTED TO THIS JOB! So Career is the right word. Money is wasted on “new and improved” tech stuff that turns out to not work. The Board of Supers NEED to work with the School Board to find a solution or ALL THE HOUSES that have been built, will start sitting empty because our “School Rating” will bottom out. (not because of our FANTASTIC Teachers, but because of the lack of commitment to OUR FUTURE ~ OUR CHILDREN

  • 2016-11-16 at 7:17 pm
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    It’s disingenuous for the school board to suggest they care. There is a limited amount of funds to go around in the school system. It has been crystal clear that this school board voted to pay themselves (via their teacher spouses) while cutting the pay for school bus drivers. Hornberger’s spouse received a 15% pay raise in just 3 years (that’s nearly $9K/yr). Jill Turgeon also has a teacher spouse and has been seeking to make him the highest paid teacher in all of Northern Virginia. Here are the facts:

    1. The markets dictate whether we can staff positions. If pay is too low, we have shortages. If it’s too high, we have workers from other areas desperately trying to transfer in.

    2. Clearly, school bus driver compensation is too low to even fill LCPS’ positions with qualified drivers.

    3. We are way oversubscribed with teaching candidates. Talk to new graduates who find it hard to even get an interview to be a teacher at LCPS.

    4. According to LCPS’ own stats, the number of teachers transferring from Fairfax and other districts into Loudoun is many times over the number that seek to transfer out of LCPS. Yet the board members with spouses say teacher pay is too low!!! They really just want to pocket money that should be going to drivers and maintenance.

    5. LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams said it was “unacceptable” that the school board’s teacher spouses are not the highest paid teachers in all of Virginia. It’s no wonder that his contract says he has to promote the board members (not the students, mind you, the actual board members).

    What makes it all worse is that this board is required by law to declare any and all conflicts of interest when raising their spouse’s pay. Yet Commonwealth Attorney Plowman refuses to enforce the law to protect his friends on the board. None of these folks could care less about the drivers. They are looking to transfer all the pay into their own pockets and that of their friends.

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