school2.jpg

The Cumberland County school system needs more bus drivers, and they’re looking to a local staffing company to help them recruit new drivers.

“We’ve had such a difficult time,” Kim Bray, human resources supervisor, said of efforts to fill open positions in the transportation department.

The school system is down about 10 drivers from what it would need to be considered “fully staffed.”

“It was just an idea,” Bray said.

The contract committee of the Cumberland County Board of Education discussed a contract with SmallBiz Staffing of Crossville during its Sept. 29 meeting. 

Under the contract, the staffing agency would recruit, screen, interview and assign drivers to work in the school system. The school system would provide appropriate training and supervision. 

Bray said the idea to use a staffing agency originated with Jim Inman, 1st District representative. 

“She has a pool of people to pick from that may be a different pool than we’ve been able to access in the past,” she told the committee.

Vickie Baucum, with SmallBiz Staffing, said, “We do this type of relationship all the time for lots other companies. The Worker’s Compensation and responsibility for the employee is mine. If they’re injured in an accident, everything in relation to the employee is my responsibility.

“The client has a responsibility to make sure that that person understands the equipment they have to operate under and that they are training them in the safety rules they expect. It’s truly a partnership.”

The school system pays $40-$70 a day, based on longevity. Full-time drivers are eligible for fully-paid medical insurance for the employee and can purchase family coverage, if they choose. 

“We pay by the day, and a bus driver’s day is four hours,” Bray explained. 

SmallBiz Staffing proposed an hourly fee of $21.75, with drivers paid from that at a rate of $15 per hour. 

“She collects all the taxes. They’re a third-party vendor to us,” Bray said. “She will recruit and, at the end of the term, we can hire them permanently if we want.”

SmallBiz Staffing would handle background checks and drug tests as required for working in the school system. It would also provide health insurance coverage to employees meeting the full-time threshold for coverage, though that is at the employee’s expense. 

“I’m hoping she has a larger pool of folks than we’re able to access,” Bray said. “We’ve pretty much exhausted our means.

“We will train them and put them on the road.”

The school system budgeted for a full staff of drivers, providing a funding source for the contract.

Teresa Boston, 8th District representative, said she believed the contract would need to go through the budget committee.

“I suppose we don’t know how much money we’re talking about until we see how many drivers we can pull from this,” she said. 

Baucum said she had over 350 people with a CDL license. 

“We haven’t begun to comb through that, but my office interviews 15 people every day. I’m sure I’m advertising more heavily. I do every job fair. We’re currently sitting in our parking lot once a week. We are recruiting all the time,” she said. 

Boston and Stace Karge, 9th District representative, agreed to forward the contract to the budget committee, pending approval by board attorney Earl Patton.

“I agree with Mr. Patton. We have such a shortage and we’ve tried everything else,” she said. 

The school system also needs substitute teachers. Substitutes are paid by the day, $60 for non-certified substitutes. Minimum requirements include being at least 21 years old or currently enrolled in an accredited college program. They must have a high school education or its equivalent. 

The school system pays a higher daily rate for substitutes who have a teaching license, $70 per day, and $100 per day for certified teachers who have retired from the Cumberland County school system.

Applicants must attend a substitute teacher orientation and complete a background check and fingerprinting. 

Heather Mullinix is editor of the Crossville Chronicle. She covers schools and education in Cumberland County. She may be reached at hmullinix@crossville-chronicle.com.