Most Friday afternoons find Marcus Dobbs driving a Fayette County Public Schools bus.
That’s not typically part of the job description for the transportation director of a large mostly urban school district, but Fayette County Public Schools is facing such shortages of bus drivers that Dobbs, a certified bus driver, said he’s often pressed into service. Dobbs said he also has to ask other transportation employees, such as mechanics who are certified as drivers, to take bus routes.
The school district has resorted to yard signs, fliers, newsletters, the school district television channel and direct mail to get the word out about open positions among bus drivers, bus monitors who ride buses, cafeteria workers and custodians, said Human Resource Director Jennifer Dyar.
Dobbs said he’s down 20 school bus drivers and 20 monitors. Michelle Coker, the district’s director of child nutrition, said she’s got 24 vacant positions among cafeteria workers. And their supervisor Myron Thompson, the district’s senior operations and support director, said there’s a shortage of custodians as well.
“As the economy picks up, you will have shortages in those areas,” Thompson said. Economy-wise, “things are kind of good right now.”
“We’re having a tough time filling those positions. We’re competing with the overall Lexington market as well as UK and other employers,” he said.
Coker said that there’s a national shortage of cafeteria workers. With two new elementary schools and more schools participating in a federal program that provides free breakfast and lunch to all students, the Fayette school district is experiencing a cafeteria worker shortage. And there’s a new high school opening next fall.
A cafeteria worker can have a four-hour or a six-hour day. Cafeteria workers are hired as substitutes at first, earning $9.50 an hour.
“We’re in competition with other food entities,” Coker said. She said the fast food industry and restaurant industry is growing.
Coker said it’s “a perfect storm.”
Dobbs said Fayette County has 226 buses on the road and 1,300 routes per day.
Some people don’t want to work a bus driver’s split shift, Thompson said.
“We’ve never been this short before,” Dobbs said.
Dobbs said bus drivers make between $14 and $23 an hour. Bus monitors earn between $10 and $17.
Dyar said that some workers find the jobs inviting because benefits are attached.
“I do feel like the efforts are helping,” Dyar said. But she said, “we are open to suggestions.”
How to apply
For people interested in jobs with Fayette County Public Schools, the mailing address is 1126 Russell Cave Road, Lexington KY 40505. The office is in the Ambrose building at 128 Walton Ave., behind the central office complex at 701 E. Main St. The main phone number is (859) 381-4740, and the fax number is (859) 381-4271.