Job shortage spurs bus driving policy crackdown

By ELIOT DUKE
Of the Record staff
Posted 6/29/21

If Harnett County Schools existed as a single building and not more than 25 campuses, a “Help Wanted” sign would be hanging on the front door.

Monica Thompson, HCS assistant …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Job shortage spurs bus driving policy crackdown

Posted

If Harnett County Schools existed as a single building and not more than 25 campuses, a “Help Wanted” sign would be hanging on the front door.

Monica Thompson, HCS assistant superintendent of human resources, on Thursday told the board of education the school system is not immune to the current labor shortage, as dozens of jobs remain unfilled. HCS currently needs to fill 37 classroom vacancies, nearly two dozen exceptional children openings and other assorted positions heading into the 2021-22 school year, Thompson said, and the pickings are slim.

“We do have a number of vacancies to report,” Thompson said. “As you know there is a labor shortage and we’re really trying to work around that in all areas. I think it is affecting us both in auxiliary services as well as our teaching staff. We’re working hard to come up with some outside-the-box solutions for that.”

Thompson listed a handful of outreach and recruitment initiatives offered by the school system in hopes of attracting talent to the district, including virtual job fairs. HCS scheduled a classified July 14 job fair at the STAR Academy and another job fair at Triton HIgh School on July 22. Thompson said the school system also is reaching out to college students interested in pursuing a teaching career.

“We are facing a labor challenge at this time,” said Thompson.

A shortage of help trickled down to available bus drivers, leading to stricter enforcement of a dual employment policy that could result in being fired if not followed. All classified — hourly — employees in the district are required to drive school buses, but not all of them do.

Thompson said that beginning on June 25, employees hired under the dual employment policy requiring them to drive a bus will need to complete and pass their CDL training within 90 days or risk losing their job. “We will still have expectations that our folks drive the bus,” Thompson said. “We’ve had some trouble in the past with people that were hired and did not complete the testing part of the CDL license. This policy gives a 90-day window to get trained and pass the test. If they cannot do it they are subject to termination after the 90 days.”

Enforcement of the policy included every HCS employee required to drive a bus, regardless of when they were hired. Anyone not driving a bus, Thompson said, will need an approved reason.

“We won’t have people who maybe take a year or two to try to pass the bus test,” said Thompson. “I think it’s very doable. People pass it every day. It’s not just for the people who were hired after [Thursday’s] meeting. If you were hired before that, beginning [Friday] you have 90 days to pass the test.”

Monthly reports are available concerning bus driver participation, and Thompson said the central office will be monitoring who is getting behind the wheel and who isn’t.

“This is a way for us to track that,” Thompson said. “Sometimes certain things happen where a person can’t drive the bus ... and we’re understanding about that. But if that’s not the case and they’re just refusing to drive, we will expect a reason given to us within a certain timeframe to alert us as to why those folks aren’t driving the bus. The goal here is that everyone drives the bus who is supposed to be driving the bus. That’s what we want. I know it’s a difficult job but it is a requirement. We don’t want some people to have the burden of that while others do not.”

Chairman Eddie Jaggers asked if HCS provided a means to take the CDL training, feeling like if the school system did, more people would complete it. Thompson assured him HCS offered access to the required training.

Board member Don Godrey supported the policy.

“I think it’s a very good idea,” said Godfrey.

Thompson said HCS still plans to hire some bus drivers for the upcoming school year, but the dual employment policy won’t change.

Eliot Duke can be reached at eduke@mydailyrecord.com or at 910-230-2038.

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment