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Mondays with Maria: 11/28/22
Mondays with MariaVideo:



Transcript:

Dr. Maria Vazquez:
Hello, I'm Maria Vazquez, superintendent of Orange County Public Schools, and this is Mondays with Maria.

Nancy Alvarez:
Hi everybody, I'm Nancy Alvarez.

Jamie Holmes:
And I'm Jamie Holmes.

Dr. Maria Vazquez:
So another topic that has come up quite a bit through our thought exchange is transportation: we are still having a difficult time hiring bus drivers to drive our students to and from school, despite having one of the highest pay rates in central Florida. We also offer $9,000 in incentives and we have a great benefits package and a retirement plan, but we're still struggling. We don't have enough bus drivers.

Jamie Holmes:
And it's not just here. It's a nationwide issue. It's all over. So one of the comments I read was from a parent who is concerned though that her child is not getting to school on time because of the late buses.

Dr. Maria Vazquez:
Well, it's gotten a little bit better this year because we tried something new. We tried the double back routing, which means that some of the students get picked up earlier, get transported to school, and then the bus returns and picks up the rest of the students. But we're still dealing with late buses and so for some parents it may feel like it's not getting better at all. If students are arriving late to school, teachers are offering opportunities for them to have tutoring or to have the instruction that they missed redone so that they're not falling behind.

Nancy Alvarez:
All right, and we were looking at some of the numbers and we understand there's about a hundred bus driver openings right now.

Dr. Maria Vazquez:
Yes, the need has grown over the last years, but when the pandemic hit, it really increased the number of openings and that's a challenge trying to fill all of these positions. We do have four job fairs planned and it's listed on our website, ocps.net.

Jamie Holmes:
So let's talk about some of the perks here. I mean, first off, the benefits are great, right? Yes. The paid training, that's very helpful, so they're not going to have to worry about that. You've got the paid health benefits as well, so a pretty good little package, all in all.

Dr. Maria Vazquez:
No, it really is. The benefits are really amazing. On your screen right now, you can see the benefits. We have paid training to get the CDL license, retirement packages through the Florida Retirement System, paid employee health insurance that's valued at $9,289, a uniform program for bus operators and mechanics, paid pre-employment activities including fingerprinting, background checks and drug screenings. Also, there are no weekends or holidays. We have seven work locations throughout Orange County. So it really is a tremendous package. Yeah.

Nancy Alvarez:
And last month we featured a new student ID card. That seems like a pretty innovative idea to help parents know when and where the students are while on the bus.

Dr. Maria Vazquez:
Yes. So in order to improve consistency in service, transportation is in the process of implementing tablets on our school buses. This will provide bus drivers the most up-to-date bus route information and provide audible turn-by-turn directions for any driver who may not be familiar with the area. This program will also allow the district to implement a parent app so that they can track their student's bus.

Jamie Holmes:
So that should really help parents know where their child is, if they want to know where they are.

Dr. Maria Vazquez:
It definitely will help. We're in the pilot phase currently, and we hope to be able to fully implement it as early as next school year. Thank you all for watching. Keep the thoughts and questions coming on Thought exchange. The link is on your screen. I want everyone to be part of our conversations.

Jamie Holmes:
So stay tuned for another episode of Mondays with Maria next week.