Just over a month before the start of the launch of its first school bus service, the Dallas Independent School District still needed 150 more drivers as a two day hiring fair began Thursday.
The new service is the result of voters deciding to close troubled bus agency Dallas County Schools last year after NBC 5 Investigates reports on safety problems and management scandals.
Dallas ISD needs a total of 805 drivers to staff 767 bus routes. The extra people will cover vacation and sick time.
“Nationwide there is a driver shortage and Dallas County Schools actually started last year about 200 drivers short,” said Dallas ISD Transportation Director Kayne Smith.
He was encouraged to see dozens of people waiting to apply for the Dallas ISD jobs as doors opened for the job fair Thursday morning.
“We’ve had a great turn out today and we’re not even half way over with this event, so I’m feeling very confident,” Smith said.
Daycare driver Jamiro Cole was one of the applicants anxious to transport school children.
“When you have kids on the bus, you’ve got to treat them just like they are your kids, that’s very important. That’s our main job, make sure the kids are alright,” Cole said.
The job fair will continue at the Dallas ISD Transportation office at 5151 Samuell Boulevard in Dallas from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday.
Smith was hired from the Beaumont ISD but he worked before that at the suburban Houston Cypress-Fairbanks ISD which transports more than twice as many students as the 35,000 to be carried by Dallas ISD buses. Cy-Fair ISD does that job for half the cost per student.
The Cy-Fair district students swipe RFID cards as they board and leave buses. Those drivers have electronic displays to show all the riders and all of it is monitored at district headquarters along with GPS tracking of the buses. It provides real time information on the location of students.
Smith said Dallas ISD has already purchased equipment for RFID identification on buses.
“My goal, of course, is to be safe and efficient, and customer service oriented but I want to be innovative as well,” Smith said.
Most of the new Dallas ISD transportation employees hired already are former DCS employees.
Former DCS driver Shawana Hill attended the job fair Thursday for an application to join her old coworkers.
“Through all of the stuff that we’ve been through, you just had to stay positive,” Hill said. “I love kids. I’m very patient and my passion is dealing with the kids.”
This time, her mother Wanda Williams came along, applying to be a safety monitor, riding along with drivers like her daughter.
“Yes, as a big help,” Williams said. “Because the drivers have to stay focused on driving.”
People with passion for children is the formula for success at the reformed Dallas ISD transportation service. It starts August 20th.
Other school districts are recruiting bus drivers, too. Thursday morning Fort Worth ISD reported 100 driver openings and Arlington ISD reported 46.