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Schools may try bus driver bonus

The proposal provides a financial incentive - $100 - for drivers who have perfect attendance for 45 days.

By BARBARA BEHRENDT

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2001


INVERNESS -- The School Board will consider a pilot program today that would give school bus drivers a new financial incentive to get to their job every day.

The school district staff is proposing a $100 bonus to bus drivers who have perfect attendance for 45 consecutive days. They want to use the end of this school year to see if the incentive plan works and, if it does, propose it as a regular program for the 2001-02 school year.

Transportation supervisor Linda Fultz said it isn't just that the district is having trouble finding substitute drivers, although that has been a challenge.

"We're having trouble keeping drivers in the seat," she said. "It's very easy to take a day off."

On any given day, one out of every 10 drivers is absent. That translates into buses picking up students or dropping them off later than usual. More substitutes are needed and regular drivers are being required to do the extra runs to get students to and from school, school officials note in their written proposal to the board.

The shortage also means more discipline problems on the buses.

"These problems are resulting in poor customer services, increased cost, dissatisfaction with transportation and concerns about student safety," the staff told the board.

Fultz said the plan has worked in Seminole County, where it has been in place for several years. Money for the cash incentives would come from unused salary dollars and every 45 days, drivers would have a fresh start to try again for perfect attendance.

The staff plans to post the names of those who have been recognized and then analyze absenteeism after the program begins as well as comparing the perfect attendance from past years with perfect attendance under the incentive program.

Board Chairwoman Patience Nave said she is going to want to see proof that such a program will actually save the district the money that is spent on substitute drivers. She also said she questions why such a cash incentive is needed.

"I think that it is a shame that we're talking about rewarding people for something that we've hired them to do," she said.

"I understand that," Fultz said. "However, for these people who go above and beyond the call of duty and come to work every day, I'd love to have the opportunity to reward them for doing that."

She noted that the drivers do have personal days and sick days that they can take when they need them and that everyone needs to take time off now and then. But Fultz said the incentive program might encourage people to schedule dentist appointments and other personal events during breaks in the school year or during the times they are not driving.

"It's just a little extra incentive," she said.

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