The Fort Wayne Community Schools board approved 31 people for employment Monday, but only one of the hires was for a much-needed position: bus driver.
The district has budgeted for 205 full-time drivers but is down about 50, officials said.
“In terms of one job, that's probably the job we need help with the most,” Charles Cammack Jr., chief operations officer, told the board during a presentation about district leadership and operations.
Cammack spoke after board members conducted the night's business. They mostly approved contracts for various maintenance projects, including mechanical improvements, asphalt repairs and resurfacing, and roof and flooring replacements.
The shortage of bus drivers has consequences in the classroom, Cammack said.
“We can't get the kids there in a timely fashion like we would like. We get them there as quickly as we can,” he said. “And it's also impacting what we can do after school and on the weekend.”
FWCS reports on its website that its buses transport up to 16,000 students daily.
FWCS isn't the only district struggling to find people with commercial driver's licenses, Cammack said. He noted it is “pulling out all the stops” with recruitment, offering such incentives as retention and referral bonuses.
Administrators are also in demand, Cammack said, noting some assistant principal posts went unfilled this year. Upcoming retirements won't help the situation, he added.
Superintendent Wendy Robinson agreed the outlook is bleak, saying, “The next crisis is the administrative.”
Administrators have gotten a bad rap because, Robinson said, the “state's been really good about pitting folks against each other.”
At a Dec. 4 legislative session preview, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said administrative costs are the reason teacher salaries have been stagnant for a decade.
“Who would willingly want to put a target on your back?” Robinson said.
The time commitment required of principals can also be a turnoff, she said.
“Good people, especially young people, don't want to give up family time,” Robinson said.
But, she said, school principal is an important role.
“Everybody in the community focuses on the building principal – teachers, parents, students, the state, central office,” Robinson said.
The FWCS job board advertised three principal openings and multiple assistant principal openings Monday. Among the requirements is an Indiana administrative license covering the grade levels for the assigned building.
Getting quality applicants is key, Robinson said.
“We can get people to apply,” she said, “but we're not looking for warm bodies.”