Schools struggle to find substitute staff
By Scott Bellile
The New London School District will increase hourly pay $1.50 for backup bus drivers as a retention effort amid a regional staff shortage.
As part of the plan, the subs will see their hourly pay go up from $18.60 to $20.10, but not until they complete 50 hours of work during that school year. The raise will revert back to $18.60 the following school year, when the substitute driver will again need to hit the 50-hour mark.
The New London School Board approved the pay increase for its long-term substitute bus drivers on Nov. 14.
“How can we recognize drivers who can’t take a full-time route, but are able to be a substitute driver for a majority of the year?” Business Services Director Joe Marquardt said to the board. “So in brainstorming an idea to retain those drivers – who have been with us for quite some time, but just with a job or whatever else might be going on, they can’t drive with us 180 days a year – I’m bringing forward a proposal tonight that would hopefully work to retain and continue to have our employees we value who are substitute drivers.”
The incentive rewards substitute bus drivers who reach 50-plus hours in a year, while at the same time paying them less than a full-timer. Marquardt said full-time pay remains higher in hopes long-term subs will opt to cross over to full time.
Marquardt said the transportation supervisor will also factor in the substitute driver’s behavior and route times to make sure he or she deserves the raise.
The board passed the motion unanimously. One board member took time to voice his support.
“Certainly it’s obvious that there’s a big problem with recruiting drivers,” Chris Martinson said. “Because every place I drive, rural Wisconsin, I drive through many school districts, it’s hard to find a school that doesn’t have a big sign out front: ‘Drivers needed. Apply here.’ So, I mean, that tells me there’s a shortage.”
Marquardt told the Press Star Monday, Nov. 21, the $20.10 pay falls halfway between the subs’ starting pay of $18.60 and the full-timers’ wage of $21.60.
He said two of the district’s 10 subs are eligible for the $1.50 raise as of Monday.
The district employs 24 full-timers. Marquardt said he’s heard from more interested candidates, but statewide, applicants appear to be struggling more since the Department of Transportation upped its standards and toughened its written exam.