While a number of transportation departments nationwide are enmeshed in deficit of school bus drivers, one school district has managed to dodge the current shortage.
Wood Dale School District 7 is a small district in northern Illinois. With roughly 1,200 students in two elementary schools and a junior high school, the transportation department has only nine routes that are covered by nine drivers.
Transportation Director Pamela Wawczak, a 29-year veteran of the district, said that to retain drivers, you must provide the essential means to keep them behind the wheel. “I take care of my drivers,” she added. “I do lunches for them, bake, donuts, birthday parties and we all do something for the holidays.”
In addition, the drivers work five to six hours a day at a pay rate of $23 per hour, the time split between morning, midday and late routes. On top of this, they earn 11 sick days per year. This sort of treatment has built long-lasting commitment to the district.
“I have two drivers here for 17 years, one 11 years and the rest under four years,” Wawczak said. “The most of my turnover is due to retirement.”
Most of the routes—which are divided between the elementary school, junior high and an early childhood center—transport between 50 and 65 students.
And since the Wood Dale district is so small, Wawczak sometimes pitches in as a substitute driver. “We really need another sub, but we are able to swing things if two drivers are out,” she said. “That rarely happens.”
A number of the drivers live in the area and have reported to Wawczak that when she eventually leaves the position, they are prepared to clock out for a final time, as well. “I have a great group of drivers,” she said.
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