WS/FCS addresses rumored bus driver strike

Published 3:49 pm Monday, October 18, 2021

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Superintendent says “hurting students is never the right way to make a point”

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Tricia McManus is addressing reports of a possible bus driver strike planned for Friday, Oct. 22. While district leaders have not been given any official notification of a potential strike, at least one driver is publicly sharing the idea saying drivers are asking for higher pay.

“If drivers want to strike then all I ask is that they let us know who they are so we can make sure our students are taken care of. Students are at the heart of what we do, and everything we do must be focused on what’s best for them. A strike will only impede our student’s ability to get to school and our students need to be in school now more than ever. Hurting students is never the right way to make a point. We should continue working together to find win-win solutions,” McManus said.

WS/FCS has given special attention to bus driver pay and recruitment in recent months. Some of the efforts include:

  • The starting wage for drivers was raised earlier this year to $15 an hour. The median pay is over $16 an hour. Bus drivers are paid more than every other hourly employee in the district.
  • WS/FCS bus drivers are paid more than drivers in most surrounding districts. WS/FCS does not require drivers to combine driving with another district role in order to be eligible for employment.
  • The Board of Education has approved three bonuses for drivers including one for $1,000 that was paid Friday, Oct. 15. Another of $500 is scheduled for December, and another $500 is scheduled for May.
  • Drivers now receive an attendance bonus. For each quarter they have perfect attendance they can receive an additional $200.
  • All full-time drivers (those assigned to drive 6 hours or more per-day) receive a $20 per run incentive for each run they pick up, every day, up to $200 more per week.
  • Part-time drivers (those that are assigned less than six hours per-day but work an AM and PM shift) receive $20 per shift if they pick up any extra runs, up to $200 more per week.
  • Temporary and part-time drivers (those that work only an AM or only a PM shift) will receive $20 per extra shift they pick up to support runs without a driver.
  • Drivers can receive a $200 referral bonus for every person they recommend that ends up employed as a WS/FCS bus driver.
  • Full-time shifts are available to all drivers.
  • WS/FCS pays for all CDL licensing fees as well as the required NCDOT physical.
  • Drivers are paid during training and serve as bus assistants while being certified.
  • All drivers are compensated for the added time it takes to support routes without a driver including overtime pay, if over 40 hours in the week.
  • A grant has been secured and is scheduled to cover the replacement of WS/FCS bus radios. The effort is part of a county-wide replacement of emergency radios across many agencies.

McManus went on to say, “We have been working very hard with bus drivers to listen and validate their feelings. We share their concerns. They currently have access to more bonuses and extra pay than any other group of employees in our district. We value them greatly and are continuously seeking additional ways to show them, but at the end of the day if children can’t get to school, they can’t learn.

“We would love to raise the salaries of bus drivers, and all employees for that matter, as this has been the toughest year any of us can remember. However, in order to do more than we are currently doing we must have more state and local funding. No one in education is compensated at a level they deserve, but everyone in this profession continues to do it for one reason, because they love children. Those that continue to work hard every day, never want to see a single student denied access to a high-quality education. This includes the majority of bus drivers who go above and beyond every day because they love our students. I am so thankful for them and will continue to look for ways to provide additional support and recognition.

“As for those that may plan to strike, we cannot allow a strike to impact students. We will do whatever it takes to make sure students can get to school.”

District leaders will continue the discussions with drivers to address their concerns.