School Bus News
TPSS takes a proactive approach to identify, train, and hire bus drivers.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Tangipahoa Parish School Superintendent Melissa Stilley
AMITE—Now feeling the effects of the national shortage in available bus drivers to transport students to school, the Tangipahoa Parish School System is taking a proactive approach to identify, train, and ultimately hire the drivers they need to keep their buses rolling.
In the aftermath of COVID-19 and Hurricane Ida, Tangipahoa Parish School Superintendent Melissa Stilley said her district is struggling to find substitute bus drivers. On any given school day, the district needs 270 bus drivers on the road, but personnel shortages have forced the school system to exhaust all the resources they have, including certified substitutes, on local bus routes.
"With more than 1200 miles of parish roads to travel and tens of thousands of children depending on our transportation service to make it to and from school every day, we simply cannot afford to have buses parked for lack of drivers,” Stilley said.
Sadly, that is a reality the district has had to face. Over the last two weeks, the district has had a handful of cases when buses had to be parked due to lack of drivers. The parish has also delayed the start of its after-school program to second semester because they do not have the number of bus drivers they will need to bring students home later in the evening.
“This is a critical time for our students, and we are facing a dire shortage of drivers to help us get our children the classroom time they need,” Stilley said.
To remedy the problem, Tangipahoa is offering free training to grow their driver pool. As of Thursday, more than 30 individuals are taking part in a two-week bus “in service” training. From there, it will take approximately three weeks for applicants to be certified to drive their own bus.
“There’s no risk, no investment on the applicant’s part,” Stilley said, adding that in addition to the free training, drivers will be assigned to a bus that they do not need to own to operate, and they will have access to fuel to keep the bus on the road.
The district has also increased its compensation for bus drivers. Starting pay is $19.84 per hour, and a driver is guaranteed that rate on five hours of work per day.
“We’ve lost drivers to neighboring parishes. We’ve lost drivers to other part-time work. And when we lose, that means our students are losing,” Stilley said.
If every applicant in the training class is successful, they will be on the road, driving no later than Thanksgiving.
“It’s a quick turnaround for a great opportunity,” Stilley said, noting that drivers are also eligible for health insurance and retirement benefits through the school system.
Stilley said the district has no plans to stop now. Another training class will begin shortly after this one concludes, and interested individuals can sign up now to reserve their spot.
“We invite anyone who is interested in joining our transportation team to reach out to us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will put your name on our list for the next round of training,” Stilley said.