Staffing a challenge, not a roadblock, for district’s transportation department

by Denise L. Gawlik   

Despite reports of bus driver shortages throughout Ohio and across the nation, the Brecksville-Broadview Heights Transportation Department is ready to roll for the 2022-2023 school year.

Incoming Transportation Supervisor Fonzie Culver the key to achieving this goal are the bus drivers themselves. More specifically, she said, having enough of them to cover the district’s 39 daily routes. 

According to Culver, the district currently employs 42 bus drivers with several more in the process of completing required training. This fall, there will be 39 daily routes, which means the district has enough drivers to cover its routes and anticipates having an additional three to seven substitute drivers in reserve.

Culver said she believes this is a “comfortable” number of substitutes for a district of BBH’s size. 

Transportation Supervisor Heidi Means, who retires from the district at end of August, explained that BBH was prepared for the bus driver shortage and has not suffered the consequences the way many neighboring districts consequences have. She said her department has been able to attract new drivers by offering more competitive wages and benefits when compared to other area districts.

Additionally, she said the department began employing full-time bus drivers as well as those needed to fill daily routes left uncovered when drivers call in sick. These drivers have not been assigned to specific daily routes but are still required to come to work each morning in anticipation of serving as either a substitute driver or performing other departmental tasks.

The result, Means said, is that the district not only has traditional substitute drivers at its disposal but also a crew of full-time drivers who could step in and drive whenever necessary.

Additionally, she said, there are also several retired drivers who serve as substitutes on an as-needed basis.

Means and Culver agreed, however, that even with these strategies in place, adequate staffing will remain the primary challenge for the department this school year. Culver explained that the district’s bus driver population is older and, consequently, many will soon be lost due to retirement.

“People used to seek out being a bus driver, they wanted the job,” Means said. “But these days, fewer and fewer people want to do the job.”

The Transportation Department is also cognizant of other recent news making national headlines – specifically the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Means said her department worked with local law enforcement two years ago to train drivers on how to respond to emergency situations, such as an armed intruder boarding the bus. Both Culver and Means said they hope to repeat this training or bring in an outside vendor who provides this type of training sometime during the 2022-2023 school year. ∞