Schools desperate for bus drivers

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 9, 2006


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — St. John the Baptist Parish schools are facing a critical shortage of school bus drivers.

Superintendent Michael Coburn said, &#8220The school system is facing a crisis situation because of the large amount of bus drivers on leave.”

Currently, there are nine positions in which bus drivers are out on various leave and only seven substitute bus drivers. Some drivers are doubling or sometimes tripling up to provide school transportation to the parish.

&#8220We are looking at several options to alleviate the problem, including finding a way to centralize bus stops or using semi central stops,” Coburn said.

Not only does the parish provide bus service to the public school system, but the parochial schools rely on parish transportation as well.

&#8220There is a real problem with buses in the parochial schools with buses not getting there until 8 or 9 a.m. because of the increased workload on the drivers,” he said.

According to Coburn, ads placed in newspapers have had little result in recruiting drivers. School bus drivers are required to have a commercial driver’s license for consideration of a position and would be provided with all other necessary training.

Bus drivers will also begin using a new clock in and clock out procedure to provide the board with better records of accountability for

drivers. Previous attempts to get accurate records were not successful because drivers do not have access to school computers, as other employees do.

&#8220Whereas the current accountability system works for other staff, the bus drivers could not access the system to provide accurate time-keeping,” he said.

The new system for bus drivers which will be put into use beginning Monday, scans the fingerprint and then can identify the employee from his print and be put into the system for hours worked. The system requires that employees use their fingerprint scan for clocking both in and out.

The board also voted 11-0 in favor of accepting bids for two new school buses that will be bought with money from a grant written by Josie Clement. The buses will be used for transportation to and from the parish’s three head start schools and for pre-k facilities. It is one of two grants written by and awarded to Clement to augment the Head Start program.

The other, a grant to buy safety rubber surfaces that interlock, will be used to cover the playground areas. It will replace wood ship surfaces which are prone to blow in children’s eyes and could cause occasional slipping. The board unanimously approved the proposal to begin accepting bids for the rubber surfaces.

Robert Schaff reported that the efforts to enforce truancy laws have been effective thus far and commended school counselors, truancy officers, the district attorneys office, Judge Mary Hotard Becnel and parents on the cooperation with the new truancy program.

&#8220We are finding that most parents are appreciative of the help we are providing them to make sure the kids are in school and just needed encouragement so they could help the kids get to school,” Schaff said.

The school board also recognized that teacher certification in the system is at an all-time high and continues to increase. More than 83% of teachers in the parish are certified or highly qualified.

Other recognitions included Renaissance Learning Reading and Math Implementation Coaches who took summer classes in order to be training consultants for Renaissance programs and East St. John High School student, Desney Dumes, who is a semi-finalist for the National Merit Scholarship Award.