Wanted: Drivers

Published 9:46 am Monday, March 12, 2007

By By Lisa Tindell and Kerry Whipple Bean
Emma Lowell and Paula Butts are doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and baby-sitters - all while driving a bus full of children.
But hauling that &#8220precious cargo” is one of the most rewarding parts of the job, Butts said.
And with hours that allow time for everything from errands to a second job, driving a bus is a convenient position, she said.
But if Lowell or Butts or any other driver gets sick, there's a good chance they will end up driving sick.
That's because both Escambia County and Brewton City school systems are experiencing a shortage of substitute bus drivers.
The pickle would materialize in such a way that would cause students to be late for school in such an occasion.
Although Brewton City Schools have only three bus routes running on any school day, they too are faced with what is called a statewide problem.
To make the job more appealing, Brewton City Schools pay substitute drivers $52 for the morning and afternoon routes combined.
The W.S. Neal Bus Shop handles 33 routes every school day with those routes encompassing the areas of Brewton, Flomaton and McCall, West said.
West said if a flu or virus outbreak were to occur among regular drivers, the situation could get serious quickly.
Randal Little, assistant superintendent with the Escambia County School System, is also in charge of transportation for the county. He said the need for additional substitutes is bordering on urgent.
People who are interested in becoming a bus driver may be holding back since certification and licensing for the job has changed over the years, West said.
Little explained the county has a policy in place to reimburse expenses to those who are hired to become a driver.
Further requirements include a four-day state certification-training period and a road test and drug test, West said.
Butts, a driver for 17 years, has gone so far as to try to recruit her students' parents to be substitute drivers.
West said the county would reimburse drivers for expenses incurred in obtaining licenses, certification, drug testing and background checks.
Smith said those who drive busses for the city school system, must also pass a similar battery of testing.
Working on a sporadic schedule and jumping through hurdles may be keeping some people from applying for the job.
Little explained that drivers must meet these requirements in order to hold the position of &#8220transporting our most precious commodity.”
Anyone who is interested in applying for the position of substitute drivers should contact the employment office of either the Brewton City Schools or the Escambia County School Board.