NASHVILLE, Tenn. — School bus drivers here will get pay raises, a 40-hour work week and attendance bonuses under a new plan to address driver recruitment and retention.
The move is meant to align Metro Nashville Public Schools’ driver compensation with local job market competition and to help fill a severe shortage of drivers that caused widespread service delays this fall.
“Driving a bus is a hard job, and we were overdue in assessing the compensation plan for our drivers, which has led to low morale and high turnover,” said Fred Carr, chief operating officer for Metro Nashville Public Schools. “We’ve spent the last few months listening to drivers in official meetings and casual conversations. They gave us a lot of insight into what they need and what it will take to keep a strong corps of drivers.”
District officials unveiled the new driver pay structure earlier this month. The changes, which go into effect on Friday, cover three key areas: pay scale, work schedules and bonuses. Here are the details:
• Starting pay will rise from $13.09 to $14.10 per hour, with all steps of the pay scale seeing an increase in base pay. District officials said that nearly every current school bus driver will get a pay raise under the new scale.
• New drivers will get raises every six months for the first two years of employment, in an effort to keep them on the job longer.
• After the first two years, drivers will get raises for every year of employment.
• Through changes in scheduling, all drivers will be scheduled to work 40 hours or more per week.
• Drivers will be eligible for a bonus of $300 for every quarter in which they maintain perfect attendance. The bonus is retroactive to the fall 2015 semester.
District officials noted that driver absences are the biggest cause of late buses.
“If we can improve attendance, families will see a direct benefit in their bus service,” Carr said.
Metro Nashville Public Schools also gave its school bus drivers a one-time bonus of $300 in October to recognize the drivers’ extra work due to understaffing.
District officials said that other concerns raised by drivers recently, including student behavior and department morale, will also be addressed. Meanwhile, a recognition program will be developed to honor exemplary drivers.
“It’s never going to be easy to drive a bus full of 70 kids, and drivers told us they’d like more support at the school level in dealing with challenging behavior,” Carr said. “We’re going to work closely with principals to make sure the expectations inside the school are honored on the bus as well.”
The district’s driver compensation changes are expected to cost around $2.6 million per year.
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