The Pinellas County School Board took significant action to address the shortage of bus drivers throughout the district.
The board voted unanimously to approve a pay increase for drivers effective immediately. This happened at a May 22 special meeting. The district currently has about 60 unfilled bus driver positions, according to officials.
District superintendent Kevin Hendrick pointed out that that move should help attract more drivers. But he said an increase was needed anyway.
“Even with the increased efforts, we are still seeing a shortage of bus drivers,” said Paula Texel, associate superintendent of human resource services. “One area we feel is a hindrance is driver pay.”
Pay rose from $16.36 to $19.79 per hour for drivers and from $17.98 to $21.76 per hour for relief drivers. Lead driver pay went from $19.79 to $21.76 per hour. Texel said that these figures are more in line with private delivery companies and public transit. The increase also puts Pinellas County drivers among the highest in the Tampa Bay area. They are now ahead of Polk, Hillsborough, and Pasco County Schools.
This raise applies not only to new hires, but to those currently driving for the district.
“Knowing the challenges we’ve faced with regard to bus drivers, I think it’s important we approve this raise,” said school board member Caprice Edmond. “And I think we need to stay open-minded with other ways we can make this job more of what someone would want.”
Job Fair on Tap
The transportation department said it hopes to advertise these positions and the increase immediately. That should allow staff to train new drivers over the summer and have all routes filled by the start of school.
Pinellas County Schools will host a job fair June 14 from 4 to 6 p.m. at Pinellas Technical College, 901 34th Street South in St. Petersburg. The fair is for all support staff. This includes mechanics, drivers, food and nutrition, custodians, painters, equipment operators, HVAC technicians, and other positions.
For more information, visit pcsb.org/jobfair.