CLIFTON PARK, N.Y, — Have you ever considered driving a school bus? It’s a great fit for retirees, stay at home parents, college students, or anyone with a part time job looking to supplement their income. Another benefit of being a school bus driver is the flexibility of the daily work schedule.
The starting pay is great and once you lock into permanent work the health benefits are outstanding.
Mike McGlauflin has driven with the Shenendehowa School District for 17 years.
“It works out that I can work another job….that’s what I like about it. The weeks off are nice because you can have vacation with your family. When my son was younger, we didn’t have to worry about daycare. I got to stay home with him,” McGlauflin said.
Lisa Williams, a driver since 2013, agreed.
“One of the biggest benefits for me, as a mom, is that I get all the school holidays, vacations, snow days and summers off,” she said. “I didn’t have to find alternate daycare.”
The Shenendehowa Central School District, like many school districts across New York State, owns its own fleet of school buses. Shen has a staff of approximately 270 highly trained and dedicated employees who provide safe and efficient transportation service for a student population of over 10,340 students. And, just like many others Shen is experiencing a severe school bus driver shortage.
McGlauflin encourages anyone who is thinking about working as a driver to try it.
“Give it a shot, because if you don’t, you’ll always have that regret or curiosity,” he said.
McGlauflin said the first time he sat in the driver’s seat and looked out over the huge hood and took a look in the mirror he said to himself, I’m gonna drive this?
“But now I prefer a bus to the car,” he said. “People ask how I like driving in the bad weather. It’s the ride to and from work that I don’t like because I’m in my car.”
School bus drivers receive approximately 75 hours of classroom and behind-the-wheel training. This occurs over a 27 day period of two to three hours per day. Drivers must undergo drug and alcohol testing on a yearly basis. They are also fingerprinted, and their records are checked constantly.
Williams didn’t think driving a bus would be for her but she gave it a try and loves it. She feels the training prepared her well. Before driving a bus she would not even drive other children in her kids’ preschool class on field trips.
“I thought about driving for a good six months, then decided to see,” she said. “The training program was so great. They start you out and bring you slowly through it, so it’s not overwhelming.”
Shen employees work flexible schedules, from as little as two hours per day to as many eight hours per day for a senior driver.
Forty-nine percent of employees have a college education, from certificates to graduate degrees; all others are high school graduates. Seventeen percent of our drivers are retirees from every walk of life: law enforcement, state agencies, executives, engineers, teachers, firefighters, and business owners. The staff is made up of 53 percent females and 47 percent males, with a healthy mix of first-generation immigrants living in our community.
While the district has about 40 full-time bus drivers, the majority of drivers and bus attendants are part-time. Employees who attain 20 or more hours of permanent work per week become eligible to receive health benefits.
As a nine-year Shenendehowa driver, Brian Evans enjoys his job; one of two that he works. Someone suggested driving to him, so he stopped in, applied, interviewed, and was hired.
“I’m an independent real estate agent and didn’t have benefits,” Evans said. “I paid out-of-pocket health care coverage for two years and it was very expensive.”
He became a permanent driver four or five months after training.
The most important benefit for school transportation professionals is the satisfaction of being a positive role model for the children they serve. These professionals have an impact on the daily educational experience of the students they serve, and they don’t take their responsibility lightly.
Williams remembers being anxious about putting her own kids on the bus.
“As a parent, when I put my kids on the bus, I wanted them to come back just exactly the way I put them on the bus. I do the same for the parents of the kids I drive,” she said.
Evans feels the same. “I enjoy driving and take it seriously….getting students to and from school safely. I enjoy the interactions with the kids and don’t find it stressful at all.”
For McGlauflin, driving a school bus was a family affair; his father was a driver too.
“Why do I keep driving? Because of the kids,” he said. “You feel like you are making an impact. You are that little piece of memory they will have when they grow up. I run into high schoolers and they still remember me. I work my other job with some of the kids I drove.”
Driver applications are available at the Shen Transportation Department on the main campus of Shenendehowa School District on route 146 in Clifton Park.
“You just have to try it,” Williams said. “You don’t know what it’s like until you try it. Come meet us. We will walk you through it and you will learn everything you need to learn. It’s worth the effort. As they say, life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
— Alfred Karam is Director of Transportation Shenendehowa Central School District