“We’ve been certainly compromised on our ability to execute on that due to staffing shortages,” Gutierrez said.
As of Oct. 19, TISD had 25 open positions for bus drivers, 25 openings for food service workers and 15 vacancies for custodians, Gutierrez said. To make up for fewer bus drivers, Gutierrez said the district has adjusted routes and schedules, but there have occasionally been late buses in the morning.
“You cannot hide the fact that we’re 25 bus drivers short,” Gutierrez said.
The district raised the starting pay of bus drivers to $18 per hour at its Sept. 21 board of trustees meeting to try to fill the need, Gutierrez said. The district is looking at other ways to fill other positions, such as contracting with Kings Clean, a commercial cleaning service, to meet the need for custodians, Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez said he believes the staffing shortages in TISD are a result of lingering effects from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the district had slimmed down its staff in areas to reduce costs, it is now playing catch-up to attract and retain enough employees to provide adequate services.
In MISD, the district is also seeing positions remain vacant. As of Nov. 15, district officials said there were 14 open bus driver positions to fill, 29 openings for food service technicians and 13 custodial positions open. MISD Superintendent Todd Stephens said the district is trying to alleviate the issue by addressing the salary range for those positions, but doing so makes it difficult to compete with other districts.
“It’s a little bit of an arms race there for that [wage] category,” Stephens said. “Sometimes it’s discretionary dollars that we don’t have a lot of to make a difference to find those people.”
MISD also adjusted its pay for bus drivers to $17.34 per hour when it revised its salaries Aug. 4. Despite facing a shortage of drivers, Stephens said MISD has been able to get students to school on time with its bus system.