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Posted on Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

WISD takes on biggest challenge: 50 percent turnover of bus drivers

By Katrease Stafford


Students board the bus to attend Ypsilanti Public Schools in this file photo. The WISD has a more than 50 percent bus driver turnover. file photo

Since the Ann Arbor, Willow Run and Ypsilanti schools entered into a transportation consortium two years ago, the districts have experienced a more than 50 percent turnover in bus drivers.

“That’s due to changes and retirement,” said Washtenaw Intermediate School District Transportation Director Thomas Moore. “Changes driven by decisions made up in Lansing, but it’s normal and people do retire.”

During the 2009-10 school year, all 10 school districts in the county agreed to study the feasibility of sharing transportation services. In the summer of 2010, it was agreed that Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Willow Run would form the consortium.

“We created this new department and we’ve hired and trained a number of drivers,” Moore said. “Of the current drivers we have, more than 50 percent are new. ... That’s been our biggest challenge.”

Challenges also have occurred because of changes made within the districts, Moore said.

One bus route each was eliminated from Skyline, Huron and Pioneer high schools. Moore said students affected were given passes for the school year to ride Ann Arbor Transportation Authority buses.

Bryant Elementary and Pattengill Elementary students now will be riding the same bus. reported Monday that Ypsilanti Public Schools students will start classes Sept. 5 from 10 to 40 minutes later than last year in a move designed to save money.

The start time change will save nearly $500,000 by reducing the total number of buses and drivers on the road.

"We went from a three-tier busing plan to four tier which allows us to reduce the size of our fleet by 10 buses, therefore saving the school district money," Moore said.


The outside of the Willow Run bus garage. Renovations are expected to be completed before the start of school.

Daniel Brenner I

Ypsilanti and Willow Run have combined transportation facilities and the WISD will spend $405,745 to renovate the existing Willow Run transportation facility, the Sampson Building at 145 Spencer Lane.

Moore said he met Thursday with the construction team and the renovations are expected to be completed by the start of school.

All together, the WISD has 169 bus drivers, 60 monitors, 8 mechanics and 14 staff members.

There are 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.

WISD bus drivers can work between 20 and 37 hours a week and wages start at $13 per hour.

As the economy continues to improve, people start to look for full-time positions, Moore said, and some people leave their part-time jobs.

"People looking for supplemental income, who love kids and enjoy driving, it's a great job for them," Moore said. "Those looking for 40 hour jobs, this job is not going to meet their needs."

"We found that during high periods of time, people came to us for work and when the economy got better, they left," he said. "This led to the turnover and it's just the local, state and national condition."

While the WISD has enough personnel, including the substitute drivers, to meet the demands of the three school districts, Moore said it's become "increasingly difficult" to find suitable candidates.

Moore is looking to add six additional drivers.

"It's a challenging mission and it's an everyday challenge we face in recruiting and retaining people," Moore said. "We advertise aggressively in every form."

Despite the looming budget issues and recent changes implemented in all three districts, Moore said he isn't worried.

"Our job is to transport the students and we want to do that effectively," he said. "As long as we do our job well we’re not worried and we expect to have a very good start up and school year.

"What happens beyond that is beyond our control and we’re looking to save the district as much money so they can return it to the classroom where it can be used most effectively."

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.



Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 10:32 a.m.

It has now been 3 years since the consolidation and nothing has changed since. After reading this? A lot of this hasn't changed since the turn over and right now? Still won't. As with the teachers? The drivers and monitors still do not have a contract.


Sat, Sep 1, 2012 : 11:52 p.m.

What a flop...."hey, let's layoff all of our loyal, yet highest paid drivers. We'll consolidate, then off them their jobs back for far less than what they were earning. Some may need to have a second or third job. We'll be sure to keep our experienced and reliable employees around then." Idiots.

In doubt

Sun, Sep 2, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

I signed back in just to vote for your post! Try having one of these brand new and inexperienced people cut you off on the road, making you slam on your brakes and your car go side ways. Then try to call and complain........don't expect an answer, or a call back on your messages you leave.

Tom Todd

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

Charter schools should receive less funding per student since they do not provide busing.


Sat, Sep 1, 2012 : 11:56 p.m.

Charter schools already receive less funding, because charter schools can't ask for a local millage. Which is why SOME do not offer busing. Summit Academy Schools do offer busing however, and their buses arrive on time and are dependable. So does Washtenaw Multicultural Academy.

In doubt

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 8:30 p.m.

I read some time ago that Insurance companies list Mothers with children the highest risk drivers because of the distraction..........try driving with 66 children!


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 11:33 p.m.

Try 70 and that is one stop.

Bertha Venation

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 8:15 p.m.

Hey! I can drive a stick.... Let me at 'em! :)


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 7:17 p.m.

These positions would have to be second incomes for all as the wages do not seem to be sufficient to live on or feed a family.

In doubt

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 8:27 p.m.

And especially not enough to pay for the benefits they have available to pay for on their own.

Billy Bob Schwartz

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 3:37 p.m.

The scariest part of this job is that you have to work with your back to a bunch of school kids. Yikes!

Ann English

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 11:22 p.m.

I never forgot the time when one bus driver stopped at an open area early on the afternoon route to let the boys (there were at least 10) get aggression out of their systems by throwing snowballs at each other for about ten minutes. In the spring, this bus driver stopped at that open area again in the afternoon to let those same boys expend their energy by squirting each other with squirtguns. Once the boys forced one of their friends to stand, some held him in place, and still other friends spanked him because it was his birthday that day. Of course the bus driver called out to them, "What's going on?" One of them answered back, "It's his birthday."


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 6:50 p.m.

School bus drivers do it with mirrors. We are watching you from all sides.


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

Yep .... privatization and consolidation is always the answer, right?? People who drive a school bus get all the credit in the world from me. I wouldn't do it, especially for low wages and no benefits. Too much responsibility. Kudos to all those drivers who stick with it and deliver kids safely every day!


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

There is benefits, but not enough to pay for the medical that is offered. Need to have something else if you want great benefits.

In doubt

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

To the people that think driving a school bus is a simple job, than it's driving and anyone can do that, nothing could be farther from the truth. Finding people that can drive a 40 foot vehicle, with the safety of the passengers and general public being the priority........well, not as many as you think. When you compound that with how many people can handle doing that with 60+ children on board and being responsible for their behavior and safety, while wheeling that large vehicle down the road WITH OUT TAKING YOUR EYES OFF THE ROAD for over three seconds.........that lowers the playing field down to a very low percentage. Experience in this job is extremely important, and with a high turn over that is lacking. A very sad statement for the safety of the children.


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 2:59 p.m.

You also need to find people who don't do drugs or alcohol. This puts a lot of people into a minority. If you are tested positive? Loss of job. DUI? No way. Got to look into the factors that unless you stay clean? This job is not for you. Todays society needs to really look at all the factors and realize one thing. Can we do this job safely and effectively without compromising our lives. Great job for someone who doesn't mind icy roads and cold buses.


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

School bus driving is hard work. I did it a long time ago, and was glad to leave. Getting up at the crack of dawn to start a cold bus, drive high school kids, middle school kids, and elementary school kids to school, then off for hours in the middle of the day, then go back and work until 5 or so. It always felt like a 12-hour day. Icy roads, screaming kids, cars running through my flashing red lights every day. You need drivers who are perfectly suited for this, not 50% turnover, not constantly bringing in new drivers to train. A lot more is involved than simply driving. You have to interact and be responsible for the children.


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 11:49 a.m.

jns131, Really, you are blaming the sugar that who provides for them? Most of the time, IF students get a snack, it is whatever they bring with them to school, not what the school magically provides for them. If you have a beef with the sugar rush these students are supposedly on, take it up with the parents who send that stuff as a snack with their student to school, not with the teachers. Also, I have found it pretty rare to see a classroom have an afternoon snack break anyway. Most of the time the snack break is held in the mid-late morning which helps the students overcome their post-breakfast down time. By the time they hit the after lunch down time, there is not much of a reason for a snack because the school day is almost done anyway. If they do have something a lot of times they have it after school on their own, not in class as a snack. Maybe what you accuse of being a sugar rush is the students simply excited to get out of school and go home to play, also called an adrenaline rush.


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 11:36 p.m.

If you do not feed them sugar they will crash on the way home. Like they do on the way to school. What the biggest pet peeve of school bus drivers is the sugar you folks send them home with. Then the driver has to deal with the sugar rushes. Please stop.

J. A. Pieper

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 11:12 p.m.

As a teacher, I have always felt the bus drivers had a rough job, and I appreciate your hard work. I don't know how bus drivers survive the end of the day run after the kids have been in school all day! I am not sure the general public realizes how hard this job is!

Detached Observer

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 9:53 p.m.

People born with money have no conception of how demanding many "low-skill" jobs are. Many of these jobs have great responsibilities; not just any numbskull can do them because the consequences of error could be catastrophic. I learned this through many years of working in food service and auto repair (...said the guy with two college degrees).


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

I totally agree with this post and yet, it is a job. But a job worth doing if you don't mind screaming children and headaches from the traffic.

In doubt

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

I wish I could vote for this post a million times. So well said BHarding!


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

AAPS bussing should have stayed with a system that was working efficiently and effectively -- since the consolidation, it has been one thing after another. The children's safety is the most important issue here, and I just don't see it with the huge turn over with bus drivers.


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 2:54 p.m.

The flip side to this whole thing? Is the lack of agreement of a contract with WISD and their union. A contract has not been settled yet to due conflicts of interest. But i do agree with you Carol, the old ways were much better then the new.

In doubt

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 1:37 p.m.

Amen Carole, you hit that nail right square on the head.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

If the old system were still in place drivers would stay for health insurance and retirement benefits. They would be paying into the state system that claims to need funding.


Sat, Aug 31, 2013 : 11:43 a.m.

37 hours per week is legally considered full time. One thing to remember is how the pension payments are calculated (or were prior to the changes). A worker received credit based on the number of days worked per year, which is based on hours worked in the case of bus drivers. If you met a certain threshold you were considered to have worked 1 year. I know for teachers is was 150 days per year, which mainly affected those substitute teaching (another law comes into play which is why it is 150 per year). The pension formula is years of service (total including purchased) times 1.5% times average last 3 years salary. Here is a rough example for a school bus driver working 10 years. Let's say this person made an average of $16 per hour the last 3 years they drove a bus. That would be roughly 180 days, 7.4 hours per day (they don't get paid for the summer when they don't work) for a total compensation of $21,312 per year. The pension calculation for this individual would be 1.5*10*21312= 3196.8 per year. That would mean pension payments of $266.4 per month. There are two reasons for the large turnover in bus drivers. First, they really are not full time jobs. They are seasonal, with the season being when school is in session. A school bus driver does not make a ton of money doing that job, even with the benefits and retirement that was included. It is rare to see a school bus driver who does not work another job to help make ends meet. Many bus drivers will take other jobs when a better full time job comes along. It is not uncommon to see school bus drivers leave the school system to drive for a local transit agency, such as AATA (or whatever they call themselves). I personally lost two bus drives in school to AATA when I lived in AA. (as a lower elementary student you notice these things). The second reason is that bus driving jobs are going away in many areas. These employees need job security and it isn't there with the school systems due to bussing cuts.

Katrease Stafford

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

Hello, When I spoke with Thomas Moore, he said the drivers are actually eligible for benefits. According to this job posting, they are also eligible for a pension.

Basic Bob

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 12:35 p.m.

The old system- full time benefits for part time part year work. No education required. Of course people will stay for that.

Basic Bob

Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 11:44 a.m.

Changes made up in Lansing. Perhaps true but unsupported in this story.


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 11:27 a.m.

Free market - low wages = high turnover. WISD needs to budget some more money for wages. Of course I'm sure they thought of that already.


Fri, Aug 31, 2012 : 12:22 p.m.

Kind of hard when so many citizens are looking to drown government employees in the bathtub.