SURPRISE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - Dysart Unified School District's Governing Board approved a new bus driver compensation package and employee referral program in hopes of filling nearly 20 open positions. "It's pretty bad. I mean we're doubling runs, we're turning people--we call them turnaround--and we're doing them at all the high schools and now we're even to the point where we're doing them at the k-8 schools also," said Douglas Curry, the Director of Transportation for Dysart Unified School District. "If we're doing a turnaround, students are still at the school for 15, 20, 30 minutes and then in the mornings they're running late."
It's not just Dysart Unified School District (DUSD) dealing with this bus driver shortage; it's nationwide. "You see where other districts in the state are not running routes. We're very fortunate; our dispatchers are miracle workers and somehow they get the routes broke up to where we haven't gotten to that point yet, but we're close," said Curry.
The previous staring wage for a bus driver was $16.81 and now it will be increased on a tiered scale that starts at $20/hour for those with zero to three years experience. The rate increases to $21/hour for four to six years experience, $22/hour for seven to ten years of experience and $23/hour for ten or more years of experience.
"They deserve it. I think it's a noble profession, and now the pay will be equitable with the job that they do," said Karma Valenti, the Transportation Administrator at DUSD.
Valenti started at DUSD as a bus driver in 2008. "I loved being a bus driver, that was my favorite job," Valenti said. "I didn't know that I would love a 40-foot bus filled with screaming happy kids until I was a bus driver."
Valenti said DUSD provides all the necessary training, including the CDL and DPS certification. All of that takes about 4 to 6 weeks. Employees who refer someone to the position who is hired and maintains employment will also receive a bonus.