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Posted on Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

20 bus drivers needed for Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti routes as students head back to class Tuesday

By Amy Biolchini

It's hiring season for bus drivers in Washtenaw County.

As of Thursday, the Washtenaw Intermediate School District has a staff of 150 drivers for 143 routes. It is seeking to hire 20 more for the entire school year, said Tom Moore, transportation coordinator.

Job vacancies occur at such high rates because all of the bus driver positions with the WISD are part-time, temporary jobs, Moore said.

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Students board a bus in Ypsilanti in this file photo. Buses that transport students to Ypsilanti Community Schools and Ann Arbor Public Schools are staffed and managed by the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. file photo

“We’re in a constant hiring mode,” Moore said. “It’s the nature of the job.”

Last year at this time, the WISD was looking to hire six bus drivers.

Moore said about 20 bus drivers leave on average during the summer months between school years, as most aren’t needed to drive a bus.

Those 20 positions are each for a regularly assigned route where the bus driver will be working with the same group of students every day of the school week. Drivers work three hours in the mornings and three hours in the afternoons on weekdays.

The WISD is also hiring for six bus monitor positions on regularly assigned routes.

Licensed bus drivers start at $13 per hour. They have the opportunity to make up to $16 per hour, based on experience. The WISD also hires retired school bus drivers and pays them at a higher hourly rate, Moore said.

The WISD provides busing transportation for students in Ann Arbor Public Schools and Ypsilanti Community Schools.

As of Thursday, there are 105 bus drivers on AAPS routes and 45 bus drivers on YCS routes. Drivers also do some routes for WISD programs.

Last year, there were 120 drivers in Ann Arbor, 30 in Ypsilanti and 19 in Willow Run. Included in those numbers are substitute drivers who are on call and used as need.

Though the WISD is hiring drivers, Moore said he has enough staff to cover every bus route on the first day of school.

However, some routes likely will have a substitute driver for the first days and weeks as the WISD will be utilizing retirees to fill many open spots, Moore said.

This year, AAPS has moved three more of its high school bus routes over to the responsibility of the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. That makes a total of six high school bus routes formerly serviced by WISD drivers that are served now by TheRide buses.

WISD bus drivers that service AAPS routes are responsible for high school, middle school and elementary school routes. Each route costs AAPS about $12,500 per year.

The switch doesn't have much of an impact on staffing at the WISD, Moore said, noting that most of the staffing issues are a result of employees leaving when they find full-time jobs.

Throughout a school year, about 40 bus drivers will leave their jobs with the WISD, Moore said.

Amy Biolchini is the K-12 education reporter for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


Lake Trout

Wed, Sep 4, 2013 : 6:28 p.m.

This is one job they could not pay me any amount of money to do. The driving part isn't the problem, it is the fact that you are hauling other peoples children (who generally have not been disciplined in any way, have little to no acceptable social skills and zero respect for adults or authority) around, unseatbelted or secured in any way without another adult on-board to keep order allowing the driver to concentrate completely on driving. Let the parents of the little darlings get them to school themselves and eliminate busses. Yes, I know this isn't a popular opinion but until schools come up with a better plan the problem of not enough drivers will continue.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 3:13 p.m. If you ever decide to go back to 'real' reporting, I challenge you to go on an undercover ride-along. Drivers are jeered, bullied and abused. School administrators shrug their shoulders. I know this to be true. I wouldn't drive a bus for twice that pay.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 3:35 p.m.

I don't see any difficulty. Have your reporter ride along as an aide.

Kyle Mattson

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

Hi Observant, I'm sure you'll understand why going 'undercover' in that situation may be difficult but we're working on something similar. Thanks.

In doubt

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

There just couldn't be a more stressful job! If people only knew the feelings of stopping traffic and letting children off the bus. Your heart stops beating and you hold your breath until all the children are safe. You worry each and every time that a car will blow through you flashers while a child is crossing the street. Your responsible for driving a large vehicle, trying to keep that many students safe and in control of their behavior all without taking your eyes off the road for more than three seconds. Your responsible for what is going on inside the bus while your watching a group of children going in different directions outside the bus and keeping track of each and every one. Your eyes are scanning traffic, down both sides of the bus, and across the front of the bus. People that take this job as seriously as it should be taken, know what those feelings are, and people that don't should not be doing this job. For this amount of responsibility and stress, they get low wages, a lack of benefits, split shifts, and worst of all, not much respect.

Speedy Squirrel

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 4 a.m.

Make the little bounders walk, uphill, both ways, rain or shine. Worked for granddad.

In doubt

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

There was probably not much traffic in Grand dad's day. He didn't have to face all the safety issues now that parents have to worry about.

Joe Kidd

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1:54 a.m.

I wanted to read this story to see if the pay was posted. Today I saw a help wanted sign for bus drivers in front of the WISD building. Now I can see why they need more people. Only $13 is a lot to ask for the odd hours and responsibility. I guess they should join a union and go on strike.

In doubt

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 11:28 a.m.

School employees do not have the right to strike. The unions stand to pay hefty fines if they do, so they probably wouldn't.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 1:15 a.m.

The people who drive our children to and from school make $16 an hour and require a special license and some training. The people who make our fries are looking to make $15 an hour. Either the drivers are making way too little or the people striking for higher wages doing a high school kids job are nuts.

Jim Pryce

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 11:37 p.m.

There's an option for the fast food workers, that's closer to what you want as a wage.

Fat Bill

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 9:31 p.m.

I'm not sure why their is a discussion about no benefits; WISD does offer benefits. The privatization issue is irrelevant; WISD is indeed a public entitiy. To compare, there are districts who pay a higher hourly wage but do not offer full benefits to most of the transportation staff. This job is an excellent second income for families where a parent otherwise stays at home. It was a great job for me while I was in grad school. Modern school busses are relatively easy to drive; the real gift that excellent drivers possess is in the management of student behavior. Do yourself a favor, if you don't like children or don't have the patience to repetitively reinforce good behavior, don't apply for this job. Personally, driving a school bus was the best job I ever had, only financial pressures forced me to move on. I would do it again in a heartbeat if circumstances allow.

Fat Bill

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 9:32 p.m.

ATTN grammar cops; autocorrect is evil, I do know the difference between their and there...


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:39 p.m.

Welcome to the world of under-appreciated bus drivers. School bus driving used to be a career for some, desiring to work P/T while the husband or wife worked at the plant. At one point and time, these employment opportunities came with basic medical and dental benefits also. Now, a school bus driver job is equaled to 20-30% of the employees taking this job until anything other job is found, that's better. These drivers are inexperienced driving your children on Michigan's Icy Roads. If the employee receive 30 hours a week, they're lucky. On top of all of these wonderful (dipping sarcasm) benefits, the WISD kindly laid-offs the bus driver off at the end of each year. No thanks. The employment economy is touch but most folks will search out any other opportunity over this.

In doubt

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 10:25 p.m.

They, like all support staff, receive a pink slip that tells them that they may have a job the following school year. Reasonable assurance of employment. Also, the State mandates that school employees can not draw unemployment while they are off. It was told that the salary people that are off in the summer were drawing it and when it came to light, the ruling was NO school employees could draw it. So unfair to the support staff!!!!!! Crossing guards can draw it, from what I have been told.

Basic Bob

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

Are they actually laid off (qualifying for unemployment benefits) or just receive notice of *possible* layoff as required under federal employment law?


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:39 p.m.

Correction -- TOUGH


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

It's not very comforting to know that your kids are being driven around by driver who probably doesn't have much experience driving a large vehicle.

In doubt

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

You are so right Tim.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:57 p.m.

Or roads that have a lot of problems, trees for one that go unabated by the County who is suppose to come out and remove or take care of the problems.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 7:26 p.m.

Not to mention the unplowed, icy roads that are the norm in AA and surrounding area.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 5:58 p.m.

How long until the Robo buses are rolling? And can a robot bus driver threaten to stop the bus if kids don't behave?


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 11:55 p.m.

What happens when the bus drivers don't behave- like when they speed or take corners so sharply that kids who DO behave are thrown from their seats and injured? Stopped putting my kids on the bus years ago, when the careless driver injured my kid, and her boss at transportation covered for her.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:56 p.m.

Or an interesting part of the day when they do.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 7:26 p.m.

Unfortunately, the bus doesn't stop when kids don't behave. If that was the case, the buses wouldn't be on time very often. Kids misbehave all the time on buses, part of what makes it a miserable job.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 5:06 p.m.

There is another surprise to being hired for one of these jobs that is not discussed here. It is sprung on an applicant after taking the time to set up an interview, preparing for the interview and spending what I consider to be my valuable time to be interviewed. There is a $75 or $80 (been there and done this routine up to that point) charge to be fingerprinted which must be done before you are given a firm offer of employment. I walked out when I found this out. When an applicant is willing to accept a job (which I was) on a "promise" of 30 hours a week (which I knew that was not true from networking) you can not expect them to fork over a fee of this amount. The whole WISD Bus Driver hiring process and the job description itself is very misleading.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 7:22 p.m.

I totally agree. The district should pay for the fingerprinting for individuals they expect to offer employment to. Totally ludicrous that applicants expecting to be hired (pending the results of the criminal background check via fingerprints) have to shell out a lot of money for a job requirement. Unbelievable. How much worse can it get?


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 2:35 p.m.

"We're in a constant hiring mode," Moore said. "It's the nature of the job." No, it's not the nature of the job, it's the fact that the jobs are all part-time, temporary, poorly paid, and without any benefits. Absolutely ridiculous. The jobs could be full-time with benefits, so it's nothing inherent about the job itself, it's because decisions (stupid decisions) were made to make these jobs part-time, temporary. Bus drivers have a lot of responsibility, and kids on buses can be very difficult, as well as not listening to the driver's directives. Anyone with a connections to AAPS (DIL works there) knows how many kids are disciplined every day for bad behavior on buses. Difficult job with a lot of responsibility to begin with that is temporary and part-time. It shows how little regard is given to these jobs.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

Half the time it is the principals fault for not supporting the drivers and their supervisors when the schools lie and say they will. There were a ton of write ups, support from supervisors and nothing from administrations. The schools need to do what they say will do, not lie and stab the drivers in the back.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 1:55 p.m.

This is a GREAT opportunity for our Tea Party posters! They can go down to Human Resources Dept and ask for an application, then show all of us how to do the job for less, saving tax payer money! Should be no problem coming up with 20-30 people that KNOW theses jobs are overpaid and EASY. Thanking all of you in advance for your work and for saving us all money!

Basic Bob

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 7:51 p.m.

Peace Corps volunteers?


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

I agree with "In doubt" ..... it's a huge amount of responsibility and the split shift would only be appealing to someone who lived close to the dispatch area. Add in the winter driving and low pay, and it becomes a rather undesirable job. The people who choose to do it, however, have all the respect in the world from me because I sure couldn't do it! They are grossly underpaid and under-appreciated.

In doubt

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 3:23 p.m.

Thank you dexterreader!


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

School bus driving was one of the hardest jobs I ever had. Not the driving part so much, although navigating icy back roads was harrowing, it was the unexpected behavior of little kids. Imagine driving through traffic, and seeing a little kid stabbing another with a pencil, or blood-curdling screams because someone grabbed someone else's lunchbox. My stomach was in knots much of the time. Once I had to physically pull a 10-year old boy off another one that he was pummeling on the floor of the bus. The next morning his mother met me at the bus stop with "You touched my boy?!" A nightmare. I was forced to tell her that her boy was beating up another one. She looked at her boy then with such anger, and dragged him back home. They definitely need regular drivers who are not underpaid, who get health insurance and are not just biding their time until they can escape the job. It's a stressful job but an important one.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 5:33 p.m.

Honey? I need a job, not a bed in a hospital ward recovering from fractures, bruises and lacerations. We cannot save them all. Just the ones who need saving.

In doubt

Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 3:37 p.m.

Tell me what responsible adult could stand there and watch a child get hurt without trying to stop it? What about the rights of the child that is the one taking the beating? Does the child doing the beat down have rights but the one taking the beating does not? A bus driver has a duty to the parents to keep their child safe, don't they? Well, where is letting a child be beaten until help arrives doing any justice? Restraining arms should be allowed to protect another child. What in the world has justice in this society came to?


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:51 p.m.

After reading this? I am surprised you were not fired for touching the boy. You are not suppose to touch any of the children and call for help. This happened in Florida and the driver quit because he was blamed by the chief of police for not handling it correctly. That chief needs to be fired because it is in the hand book, call for help, get the children off the bus and try to secure the situation. In your case? You got lucky. As one driver to the next? Most can't wait to retire.

Great Lakes Lady

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 1:24 p.m.

I thought I had read awhile ago that those jobs were going to be privatized. Driving a school bus is a very difficult job....


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

They were privatized. 3 years ago. Bus drivers went from making close to 18 an hour to 16 and they are capped. AAPS BOE privatized transportation 3 years ago and gave it to WISD. Yes, driving a bus is difficult but not that hard but even harder when you do not get paid more then 16 an hour which is why some retire and come back 6 months later to make 22 an hour. How sad is that.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:38 p.m.

Seems as though these jobs could/should have been filled before the first day of school. How long and hard have they been actively looking for drivers?


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 10:38 p.m.

The article makes it clear they have enough bus drivers to start off the school year. They're hiring additional drivers to have flexibility and to handle attrition. And @Emma Jackson makes it clear that they've not waited until the last minute. If this was full time work, you could multiply the hourly rate by about 2000 to get a sense of annual salary. But this is part-time and temporary.

Emma Jackson

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

Buses with banners have been parked at high visibility school locations throughout the spring/summer in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor along with yard signs indicating bus drivers are needed. Previous news stories have mentioned this topic as well as notifications posted on social media outlets. The Transportation Department does recruit year round for these positions.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 3:18 p.m.

I do not agree that these are terrible jobs. I would think they are excellent jobs for a person recently retired who wishes to pick up a few bucks.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 2:38 p.m.

We started seeing signs in a few places around town a couple weeks ago. Not a good strategy unless you start a couple months ahead of school starting. These are terrible jobs. No surprise they are still looking.

Chester Drawers

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

There never seems to be much urgency among folks in the education business to solve problems in a timely manner, does there? They need to learn how to get out in front of their issues.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:37 p.m.

BioWheels - Drive a bus 6 hours a day 180 days a year or a delivery truck 40 hours a week 50 weeks a year? That is the issue here. If the AAPS Administration were to follow the recommendations of the bussing study they paid for and never released (and NOTE I have only ever seen a draft version). Then the 3 high schools would stagger start times and their feeder schools would too. This would mean fewer buses, fewer drivers and more full time work. It would not fix the 180 day issue, nothing but year round school would do that. With all the holidays, days off for in service, weeks off for early winter, winter, late winter, later winter, early spring, spring, late spring, (exaggerating here, but sometimes as a parent it feels this way) drivers don't get a consistent pay check either since they are hourly employees. As the economy comes back a $9 an hour delivery truck job beats a $13 an hour bus driver job. It even almost beats a $16 an hour bus driver job.

In doubt

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:28 p.m.

Amy, would it be possible to get the cost of training, doing all the checks and putting them on the road?

In doubt

Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:22 p.m.

The odds against finding people to drive a 40 foot vehicle to work part time are bad. The odds of finding people that want to put 66 or more students in a small space and be responsible for their behavior and safety are even worse. The odds of finding someone to do both at the same time are probably close to zero. Add in low wages, probably half of what private sector bus drivers make to drive adults and not be responsible for children, no benefits and split shifts, having to travel back and forth to work. Do you even have to wonder why the turn over is so great? Training drivers, criminal and drug checks are not cheap. They are losing a lot of money there. They are going to have to sweeten that pot if they want to keep people employed. At a time when jobs are so scarce, 40 people leaving this job every nine months kind of speaks for it's self.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:46 p.m.

Some don't really leave. They wait 6 months after retirement, come back and get paid 22 an hour. That is how WISD sweetens the deal.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 3:15 p.m.

So, what's your point?


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 11:07 a.m.

Ah! So if they actually paid a descent wage, we'd have better bus drivers? This is not surprising, since they are non-union, low wages and benefits, and are expected to work such odd hours. These are the kind of jobs governor Snyder thinks are improving the Michigan economy. Go figure.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

If you think this is not rocket science? Then you have a job driving a bus. Tail swings are the biggest thing drivers need to think about. And yes, $20 would be a nice starting point for all the grief they get on and off the bus.


Tue, Sep 3, 2013 : 11 a.m.

So should everyone get paid at least $20 an hour? Driving a bus is not rocket science.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 8:44 p.m.

When the BOE privatized transportation WISD took over. They paid at a topped out wage of 16 an hour. If they had stayed with AAPS you could pretty much guarantee to be topped out at 18. Right now the wages is a factor as to why most retire and return. If you retire? You make 22 an hour. This is without benefits. Must be nice....


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

These are the same wages / benefits that architecture school graduates earn in Ann Arbor... and they are considered professionals and have 5-6 years of college education. There's no guarantee of "moving up" in their field either. Not saying that's right for anyone, but just sayin'....


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

Bio.....Hate to break the news to you but its been like this for years way before Snyder.But I suppose if you can't resist taking a shot at him then go for it


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

There are no benefits. They are temporary and part time.


Mon, Sep 2, 2013 : 12:16 p.m.

The Federal government is counting these part time jobs each week. In fact, the description of being part time is not even being shown. It is in the details. Go figure!