School board lowers education requirements to be a bus driver
Dr. Diane Gullett, the Superintendent of Marion County Public Schools, left, talks with Nancy Thrower, the board chair, right, during a meeting at the Marion County Public School Board in Ocala, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.
The Marion County School Board (MCSB) unanimously approved a vote to update its current job description for bus drivers at its regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 11.
One key update to the job description involved the added word “preferred” to the end of educational requirements regarding “graduation from a standard high school or equivalency diploma.” Other revisions were mostly grammatical in nature.
School Board member Don Browning said he pulled the agenda item for discussion during the meeting in order to celebrate the decision to update the job description’s language.
“What a tremendous job bus drivers do,” said Browning. “And these are some of our lowest-paid people and it’s some of the most responsible work that is done. Not only do we have solid standards for bus drivers, but we’re enhancing them and bringing them up to current.”
Board member Nancy Thrower thanked Browning for bringing the agenda item up, adding that it was a job description she was very passionate about changing.
“And the reason why is because there are several instances in this tremendous shortage where we have actually lost the ability to hire a couple of wonderful bus drivers with great driving backgrounds and clean licenses because they didn’t have high school diplomas,” said Thrower.
“That was the genesis of changing this job description. And it’s so important for the community to know exactly why this job description was changed and why it came before us tonight,” she added.
Currently, Marion County Public Schools (MCPS) has 275 budgeted bus driver positions for 2022, with 230 current drivers on 242 bus routes, according to Kevin Christian, director of public relations for MCPS.
As of Jan 12, Christian said MCPS has 22 open bus driver positions. Since the holidays, about 8 to 10 bus drivers per week have had to call-out due to COVID-19, but he said those numbers are improving.
When MCPS is short bus drivers, according to Christian, other drivers typically double up on routes when space and time permit—meaning they deliver their first bus load of students then go back out to pick up additional students. From time to time, certified office workers have also been tapped to drive a school bus when the need arises.
Board Chair Eric Cummings mentioned that the updated language of the job description lined up better with some of what’s being done to hire more bus drivers on the national level.
“I celebrate that we’re lining up with the rest of the nation and getting more qualified people in these bus drivers’ seats,” said Cummings. “That is a priority that we have to have.”
The revised job description, which specifically describes the duties, responsibilities and functions required by an individual to perform the job, will be uploaded to the MCPS website and used as the official job description for employees and postings for future bus driver positions.
According to MCPS documents, the last time the school board approved revisions to the bus driver job description was on November 13, 2018.