In February, North Carolina celebrated school bus drivers in Wake County. Events like this are just one possibility for keeping spirits up at districts across the country. - Photo: Wes Platt

In February, North Carolina celebrated school bus drivers in Wake County. Events like this are just one possibility for keeping spirits up at districts across the country.

Photo: Wes Platt

Bondurant-Farrar School District in Iowa has seen remarkable community growth in the past several years, from new local restaurants to the arrival of Amazon. New housing developments are erupting throughout the area, bringing with them more families with students to attend public schools. 

The district is building new schools while also adding to the populations of existing campuses, an average of 125 new students at each school, says Mary Jo Hetrick, transportation director. 

“It is fun to watch, but also scary at the same time,” she says.  

Bondurant-Farrar recently asked school district employees across the spectrum to take surveys about job satisfaction. “We want to be able to attract new employees along with keeping the current employees,” Hetrick says. “With our growth in students, we are adding another school building next year and attracting new employees is the key to our success. Without happy current employees, we will struggle to attract and employ new ones.” 

School Bus Fleet gathered the following tips for boosting staff morale from Hetrick, Wendy Anderson of Randolph County (North Carolina) Schools, Guy Griffin of Rowan County (Kentucky) Schools, Vicky Cross of Fulton County (Georgia) Schools, and Scott Wing of Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Community Schools:  

Share Camaraderie 

  • Provide transportation staff with shirts and rain jackets with logos. 
  • Order frozen treats on the last day of pre-planning. 
  • Serve pizza lunch once a month. 
  • Host pot-luck events. 

Hear Everyone Out 

  • Make decisions as a team, rather than a single decision-maker. 
  • Form a Drivers’ Advisory Council to meet once a month and discuss concerns. 
  • Prepare and distribute a survey to gauge morale and staff needs. 

Keep In Touch 

  • Share bi-weekly informational updates to keep staff engaged. 
  • Produce regular newsletters to communicate with employees and families in the school district community. 

Provide Financial Rewards 

  • Use ESSR funding for retention bonuses. 
  • Provide hiring bonuses. 
  • Seek approval for benefits-eligible transportation positions. 
  • Offer a referral program, with a financial reward for drivers who refer new drivers that manage to complete training and drive on their own. 
  • Give staffers an annual bonus at the end of the school year if they don’t take extra days off beyond sick and personal time. 

Offer Appreciation and Recognition 

  • “Friyay Shout Outs” for drivers and monitors.  
  • Thank drivers over the radio.  
  • On holidays, offer special meals for the transportation staff. 
  • Encourage students to write letters and draw pictures to share what school bus drivers and monitors mean to them. 
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