#SchoolBusDrivers #NowHiring #BethlehemCSD #DiegoCagara #SpotlightNews
BETHLEHEM — The Bethlehem Central School District (BCSD) is looking to hire “as many bus drivers as we can get,” according to Transportation Director Cindy Jurewicz, especially with the new school year commencing on Thursday, Sept. 6.
Jurewicz cited that the district is particularly looking for substitutes—bus drivers who can cover for other drivers who are sick or unable to come to work. Such substitutes would most likely transport students going on field or sports trips, along with afterschool runs. BCSD, which serves the towns of Bethlehem and New Scotland, needs at least a dozen substitute drivers; right now, it only has eight.
“We want drivers to be reliable, who like being around children or have dealt with children in some other way before,” she said. “They would work split-shift days, need to be flexible and be very mindful of driving a large vehicle with children behind them.”
Noting that there is a relatively low turnover rate, Head Trainer Kevin Williams also added that “we look for open minds and good attitudes as the job can be demanding at times and we try to train them to be comfortable with the large bus.”
A bus driver would typically work anywhere from 5:45 to 9:45 a.m., before coming back in the afternoon from 1:30 to around 5 p.m. Of course, this schedule may vary, depending on which school and how many students the specific bus would serve. While pay starts at $17.63 an hour, drivers would work part time, must be at least 21 years old and have a clean driving record. They do not necessarily need a commercial driver’s license to apply. Following the typical school calendar year, they can have weekends, evenings, summers, holidays and breaks off, according to the BCSD website.
A newly-hired driver would initially serve as a substitute driver and will only get their own bus route once they achieve seniority. Until then, the driver would be assigned a route or schedule according to what BCSD needs.
In a video on the Capital Region BOCES’ YouTube channel that was provided by Williams and Jurewicz, several unnamed BCSD bus drivers gave their perspectives on how they landed and enjoy their job.
A male driver said, “I used to walk around the area and I passed by the garage several times. I just talked to a few drivers, they brought a trainer out to me one day. I talked to the trainer, then came in and filled out an application. … It’s the job that I should’ve had 20 years ago!”
“I actually came from a background doing office work before this,” one female driver said. “My brother who works for another part of the district said, ‘They’re doing Open Houses, you should really go drive one!’ And I’m like, ‘No, they’re too big, I’m not going to be able to turn, I’m going to hit something.’” She recalled then eventually going to the Open House anyway and was trained behind the wheel.
The district will hold its next Open House on Thursday, Aug. 23 from 10 a.m. to noon.
Interested applicants will have the opportunity to meet some of the current drivers, ask questions and learn more about what the job entails. In addition, Williams himself will drive a school bus around the parking lot, to familiarize applicants with its traveling trajectory.
“The Open House helps people because the buses are intimidating in size and they may not know exactly how to maneuver them or they simply are not used to them,” Jurewicz said. “We’ll also have informational packets aside, applications and commercial driver manuals, with chapters outlined for them to study [for] the permit test.”
According to Jurewicz, who herself started as a bus driver in 1988, prospective drivers are required to take four or five informational classes before they can literally train behind the wheel. When they’re ready, they take the permit test on their own time at a Department of Motor Vehicles office.
“Drivers have to go through background checking, pre-employment drug and alcohol testing, physical testing, and secure fingerprints through the FBI,” she said, adding that they also have to take “written, oral and driving tests, and training.”
These ample checks and tests also help to ensure bus drivers can be trustworthy and dependable, especially given last year’s scandal.
In Feb. 2017, BCSD bus driver David Haverly, then 66, was arrested for promoting a sexual performance by a child and possessing a sexual performance by a child, after he was also found to have downloaded child pornography. He had been hired back in September 2006 and nothing suspicious was discovered during background checks.
Superintendent Jody Monroe had released a statement in response to the situation at the time, “The safety and well-being of students is the district’s top priority.”
“We can’t let drivers go off with the children until we’re convinced they’re fully capable,” said Williams, who also noted that many state agencies are involved in reviewing bus drivers’ applications, including the DMV and the Department of Transportation.
Nevertheless, Jurewicz concluded that “it’s a rewarding job, kids are a lot of fun! Well, it may be difficult and challenging sometimes, but drivers and attendants do take great pride in what they do here. There’s this connection that grows between the driver and the students, especially when certain students finally leave the school and say goodbye at the end of the year.”
While BCSD actively recruits throughout the school year, interested applicants are encouraged, though not required, to RSVP to attend the Aug. 23 Open House, via Williams’ email at [email protected] or call the Transportation Department at 518-439-3830.