As some students misbehave on school buses, Wake will pay employees to serve as monitors

T. KEUNG HUI The (Raleigh) News & Observer

RALEIGH — Wake County will crack down on student misbehavior on school buses by paying school employees to take on extra duties as bus monitors.

The Wake County School Board on Wednesday approved a plan to pay non-transportation employees at least $16 an hour to ride bus routes that have been identified as requiring additional adult supervision. The board also agreed to pay at least $17.20 an hour to non-transportation employees who hold a commercial driver’s license to drive school buses.

The vote came as bus drivers told the council in public comments that students were throwing objects at them and disrespecting them. The drivers said the bus monitors were badly needed.

“I come to speak on behalf of a lot of the bus drivers who couldn’t make it tonight,” Cindy Hicks told the board. “We have buses with behavioral issues. It’s a challenge for us to keep our eyes on the road.

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The plan comes at a time when Wake, like other school districts nationwide, is facing a driver shortage and complaints about unruly student behavior on buses. Wake has a 30% bus driver vacancy rate, which leaves some routes uncovered if no replacement driver is available.

“Potentially saving lives”

Three bus drivers shared their horror stories at the board meeting.

Hicks, a bus driver for 12 years, recalled a time when a student on another bus threw a substance out the window that hit her in the face. She said the incident had been swept under the rug.

“It could have been anything, burned my eyes and I could have destroyed the bus,” Hicks said. “I might have had to go to the hospital.”

Hicks challenged council members to ride the tough bus routes to see for themselves the issues drivers face.

Frankie Dixon told the council of a day when students started singing, banging on windows and stomping on the door. He decided to drive them back to school rather than continue on the road.

As he returned, Dixon said a student threw a large stick of glue which missed him but cracked the windshield. Dixon said another student threw a glue stick that hit him in the back.

“That’s why we need monitors because our children need safety as well as bus drivers to and from school,” Dixon said. “It’s important that you take this step because we have to start somewhere, and I think it’s a good place to start.”

Abeer Javed read a statement from bus driver Ella Lambert, who was unable to attend the overnight meeting. Lambert said in the statement that she had numerous close calls, including a moment when a student threw an ice cream that hit her in the back as the bus rolled down Interstate 440.

“Having another adult helping me on some of our difficult routes will not only relieve stress on my routes, but potentially save lives,” Javed said as he read Lambert’s statement.

Employees who agree to become Bus Monitors or Relief Bus Drivers would perform this additional work in addition to their regular duties. They would be assigned to routes near the schools where they work.

A long-standing complaint from bus drivers is that it is difficult to maintain order on the bus while trying to drive. Wake recently developed a code of conduct for students traveling on school buses or taxis.

Employees who agree to become Bus Instructors will serve on 48 bus routes at 19 schools. Wake has 560 routes. They will be paid at least $16 an hour depending on their years of experience and whether or not they qualify for overtime.

Non-carrier employees who have a CDL would be paid at least $17.20 an hour to drive buses.

AJ Muttillo, deputy superintendent of human resources, said employees will need to get their manager’s approval and show they can perform the extra duties on top of their regular work. But he said it would be a way for employees to get extra income.

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