Skip to content

MPS dealing with bus driving conundrum

The MPS Transportation Department is transporting over 8,000 kids twice a day. They are looking for drivers to help fill vacancies currently. (Photo provided by MPS)

By Jacob Sturm

Mustang Public Schools is facing a predicament that doesn’t have a quick fix.

That comes through bus drivers, a much needed group of individuals for many school districts,
being overworked while in equipment that is substandard.

Dr. Jason Pittenger, the Assistant Superintendent of Operations for Mustang Public Schools,
provided the district’s school board members with the information regarding the issues the
district is facing.

He said the transportation department transports over 8,000 kids twice a day, has 42 regular
routes and 15 special routes. There are 61 people working the buses in total, with 15 aids and
two vacancies.

“We have three mechanics, two clerks (a director and an assistant director) each of the last 19
days have all driven a bus route,” Pittenger said. “… So, what may have seemed like (a good
start), and I’ve heard great feedback from our sites as to the buses are running (and) it’s been
smooth and everybody has done backflips to try and accommodate school sites etc., it hasn’t
been without a plethora of people stepping in to fill a gap that’s been there since Day 1 that

If the district were to find a driver who doesn’t have a CDL, it would cost the driver
approximately $200 and would take 30-45 days for them to successfully get the CDL. Pittenger
said the district does the training on site, but they would have to take their permit test and
driver test at the DMV at the CDL station.

That makes for real challenges when drivers have conflicts.

“We’re in a position where, if someone calls in sick or for a funeral or something like that, we
have to double routes,” Pittenger said. “We have zero subs. So, it’s not like I can grab
somebody out of the mechanic shop and put them on a route that makes up that drivers’

Pittenger also mentioned how the doubled routes can impact the time for the bus to pick up
students, saying kids on those routes have been picked up a little late.

Most of the bus drivers have an elementary route, an intermediate route and a combined
middle school and high school route. If there is a double route, that could impact every wave of
kids the driver picks up.

“We’ve got some people that love kids and they focus on two things: how do we get our kids
there safely, and how do we get them there on time or as on time as possible,” Pittenger said.
“… So, kudos to all of those individuals… for doing the job that they’ve done. We’re not the only
district in the nation having this issue.”

“…It’s not just a problem we’re facing, but it is going to warrant some conversations moving
forward to figure out what we have at our disposal to really make this a little more
sustainable,” Pittenger said. “Because right now it’s not sustainable.”

The district would need seven more drivers to get to a point where everyone who is employed
for a different job can focus on that job. Pittenger said that could mean mechanics can focus on
the backed-up oil changes, brakes, filters and transmissions to fix.

Pittenger also said an additional eight drivers to utilize as subs would help the district through
not impacting other jobs when routine drivers cannot be there.

Superintendent Charles Bradley also addressed the issue during the board meeting.

“We’ve been seeing this develop since the first day of school, and he’s (Pittenger) exactly right
that it’s not sustainable,” Bradley said. “… Our number one goal is to get the kids to school
safely on time. And so, if we’re not hitting that goal, then that means something needs to
change to do that.”

Bradley also said the district intends to bring forward plans to present to the board of
education to have the discussion. He said that information would be brought forward by the
October meeting if not sooner.

Steve Schlosser, one of the two state registered bus driving instructors in the school district,
spoke to the board as a representative for the bus drivers. He emphasized the lack of
sustainability currently happening.

“We need more bus drivers,” Schlosser said. “That’s it. We need more drivers. We’ve had
meetings. We’ve talked about these things. Pay, equipment and student behavior are the three
issues. And there were at least three, maybe four drivers who quit last year because of student
behavior problems.”

“…The real big issue amongst the senior drivers is not the pay,” Schlosser said. “Our pay is not
great as it compares to other 6A institutions, but it’s not the pay. It’s the equipment.”

He mentioned only 12 buses are air conditioned. MPS had their transportation bond passed on
Feb. 14, resulting in six air-conditioned buses being added as a result from the first year of the
bond. That bond follows the same rules as recurring dollars bond funding, where the district is
capped on the amount they can spend each year due on the size of the bond package.

Bradley said the second year of available capped bond funds will be intended to go more
toward the buses. He told the Mustang Times that it is clear that buses have become a main
priority for the district.

Other requests Schlosser made is for the district to have a traffic engineering firm come in and
take a look at the high school traffic and how it influences route lengths. He also mentioned
drivers not being able to take contract days off, and having to miss a funeral of one of the
districts former drivers due to their school obligations.

People interested in helping the school district out with this shortage could expect to be
working six hours a day. Hours would be 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. and from 1:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.
in the afternoon. Those hours do vary slightly depending on the route.

“The hours are wonderful,” Schlosser said. “You’ve got five hours off midday. So, you can go
shopping or (attend) medical appointments. Whatever you need to do. That’s one of the
advantages… The benefits are good. Working conditions are reasonable.”

MPS sent an email to staff in the days following the meeting introducing the MPS Driver
Discovery Incentive. The district will pay any employee of the District a finders/discovery fee
($250 for full-time driver, $120 for part-time driver) for recommending any individual who
becomes employed as an MPS bus driver.

Restrictions include drivers not being an employee of MPS already, and that the driver must
drive a bus (outside of training) for three months before the incentive will apply.

The district will also reimburse any driver employed after July 24 up to $250 for cost related to
obtaining a CDL and other costs necessary to drive a school bus.

Leave a Comment