Making bus duty voluntary would produce better results

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On Thursday, two people from the county office came in and told us we had 12 months to get a commercial driver license or a doctor’s note, or we were not going to be able to keep our positions because there are something like 160 TAs and only 27 of them have CDLs.

This is a logical fallacy. The problem is a lack of bus drivers, not a lack of TAs with CDLs.

Why TAs? Because that’s what they do in other counties, and it’s easy? Have you talked to teachers in those counties about how they felt about what they were left with in the TA pool after they added this stipulation?

Have you talked to teachers who lost their TAs the last time Wilson did this?

Now, it’s not that people who want to drive the bus make bad TAs, it’s that a lot of people who would make good TAs do not feel comfortable driving such a large vehicle.

I love working with kids. I have a master’s in education. I have more than 10 years of teaching experience. Education is my vocation. It is a calling for me, but I also own a small business and have a 6-year-old daughter. Being a TA suits me at this current stage in my life because I get to work with kids, which I love, and I get to work at my daughter’s school, which just makes my heart super happy and eliminates the child care nightmare of working moms because we have the exact same schedule!

But in my personal life, I don’t have enough confidence to drive other people’s children around in my car, let alone a giant bus filled with other people’s children. The idea fills me with anxiety and dread. Just like our children, adults also have strengths and weaknesses. I like working in a controlled environment like a school. When you take a bus full of children on the road, there are too many outliers for me to ever feel comfortable doing that, and I think there are lots of people who feel the same way.

Now, conversely, there are people who love to drive and feel confident doing it. Why would you ever want to put someone behind the wheel who doesn’t really want to do it? That does not seem safe.

I would like to propose a different approach to this problem. Advertise the position to ALL of the staff, including how much it pays. Advertise that Wilson County will pay for employees to get the license. Advertise that for people nearing retirement, taking on this extra responsibility could help pad their retirement. Hype it up!

Some TAs might be interested in driving if it were proposed as something they could do as opposed to something they were being forced to do to keep their job. Cafeteria workers might be interested in driving the buses in the afternoons as they finish work at 2 p.m. and might want to earn extra money. Custodial staff might be interested in driving as well. There might also be some teachers who want to pick up extra money, or who might want to be able to have the autonomy to drive their class on a field trip. Some people might just get their CDL because they know the schools need more bus drivers and they want to help.

Set a goal for the number of CDL drivers you want to have per school. I bet the schools would meet the number if it were reasonable. Make it a contest for bragging rights. People would get certified. Some people might even discover they like to drive the bus if given the opportunity to try it.

My reasons for writing this letter are selfish, but I believe that I am also speaking on behalf of a lot of my fellow TAs, who love their jobs, and our students, but who don’t want to drive a bus. I saw grown women tearing up in the teachers’ lounge after we finished cafeteria duty because they don’t want to drive the bus, but they also don’t want to lose their jobs.

Mandating that current and future TAs get a CDL will dry up some of the streams that flow into your talent pool. I know I will have to remove myself at the end of this year because I will not be getting a CDL. It would be a waste of county resources for me to do so because I would never feel comfortable driving a bus.

Mahalia Breen