Metro Schools Hope Job Fair Helps Relieve Bus Driver Shortage
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With just over a month before the start of school, Metro Nashville Public Schools has announced plans for a bus driver job fair to fill more than 70 open positions.
Recruiting new bus drivers has been an uphill battle for Metro over the last couple of years after retirements and a cut in driver's hours. The district still needs more than 70 drivers to be at full staff and they're hoping a job fair will help them find qualified candidates like Tonia Brown.
"I love kids. I've always worked with kids," she said. "I've always worked around kids."
Brown worked for years as a bus monitor. Now she's getting behind the wheel.
"The only thing I've driven this big was my suburban," she said.
Brown was hired to help fill a bus driver shortage in Metro just weeks before the start of the new school year.
"We never want our children standing on the side of the road or busses running late," said Sherry Mabry, a driver training specialist with the district.
The transportation department would be fully staffed with 571 drivers, but less than 500 are currently employed.
Driver training coordinator Jessie Knowles said officials were looking for the right kind of person to work with students.
"I have sent back over 1,000 applications for one reason or another," said Knowles. "Assaults, DUI's – we send all of those back."
Most applicants don't make it to his class because of their background check, their driving record or because they can't pass the initial tests to get their commercial drivers learners permit.
"Everyone can't be a school bus driver," said Knowles.
Even after getting their commercial driver's license, some never show up for their first day, opting instead to take that license and training to another job.
Knowles recognized it as a concern but said, "There's nothing we can do about that."
On July 9, Tonia Brown's driving skills will be put to the test.
"I'm prepared. I know I'm going to pass," Brown said. "No if, ands or buts about it."
Brown said she can't wait until the start of school.
"(I'm going to) be a bus driver, a school bus driver, a professional driver," said Brown.
Metro needs dozens more just like her.
Applicants will be paid minimum wage during training. That jumps to $12.44 an hour, 35 hours a week once they get their license.
Metro will host a job fair for bus drivers on Thursday at Antioch Middle School from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.