Joplin School Bus Drivers and Staff Share Safety Concerns with Candidates for School Board

Joplin School Bus Drivers and Staff Share Safety Concerns with Candidates for School Board
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Joplin school bus drivers and support staff take their safety concerns to candidates running for school board.

Charlie DeVaughn says a cut of his hours means he’s forced to rush training new drivers.

“I used to get forty hours a week allotted to me for training (and his route). So they cut back our hours, with my route I have thirty hours a week on that and I’m only allotted two hours. (for training.)”

DeVaughn says more time for training is critical as the bus barn is down fourteen drivers. Others told candidates for school board that the under staffing is forcing some to drive double routes.

Dale Foley said yesterday drivers did double routes for elementary and “They were hours late getting to school.”

The interim superintendent says regionally there is a shortage of bus drivers. But the group says many quit over hours.

DeVaughn says, “A lot of people they quit after they took the summer work away from us. That’s a huge three month gap there that people don’t get to work now. They’re having to go out and find jobs and hope they can get hired for a few months. Most places aren’t willing to do that.”

Summer work is supposed to be granted under a long time agreement between the district and the drivers’ union, the Education Support Professionals Association.

And they argue they haven’t received a raise in two years.

Driver Sheri Virgin says, “I’ve been a bus driver as of July 17th just short of twenty years. I started at $13.86 an hour and currently make $15.13 so $1.27 in that amount of time and then after fifteen years you’re capped.”

Superintendent Ridder says a market study shows their pay at market levels. He does say, “Whatever we can do to be attractive and be fair and just that’s what we’re gonna do. And so, um, I know there’s been some conversation, some concerns. My main concern is teachers and classroom right now.”

He says he wasn’t aware of many of the groups issues but is willing to set up a conversation forum.

Dr. Ridder says, “I can do that and have that regular conversation but I will not get into working conditions , salaries that’s all part of the association.” The local Missouri NEA representative says the group has collective bargaining but dialogue stopped happening between 2005 and 2008 and they now hope to revive negotiations.