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VISD has more bus routes than drivers this year

By Carolina Astrain
Aug. 26, 2012 at 3:26 a.m.
Updated Aug. 27, 2012 at 3:27 a.m.

Pam Briones glances toward the back of the bus to check which students will be getting off. Briones said the challenge is to focus on the road, while being aware of what is happening on your bus. "You just learn to look up real quick," Briones said.

Jittering her ankles in the lobby of Workforce Solutions, Deola Guijon was looking for a job Friday afternoon.

The Victoria resident said she has experience driving construction trucks and flat-bed trailers.

"I need to pay bills," Guijon said. "I'm running out of what little I have saved."

On Aug. 16, the Victoria school district board of trustees approved two new bus routes in response to an increase of hazardous traffic areas.

In May, the district had 47 drivers stopping through 47 routes. On Friday the department reported hiring 45 drivers, making them four drivers short of the new total of 49 routes.

Director of Transportation Angie Sherman said it's been a challenge getting drivers onboard.

"This is a nationwide problem," Sherman said. "And now we have to 'share' our drivers with the oil fields."

Drivers with a clean record and a Commercial Driver's License have been scooped up by the burgeoning oil industry.

Guijon said if it weren't for a Driving While Intoxicated citation she received 25 years ago and a recent forgery charge, she'd apply for a position with the district.

"She's actually a good driver," said her daughter, Elida Gillespie. "I'd trust her with other people's children."

The split-shift, 20-30 hours a week and the responsibility involved has created a high turnover rate of drivers, Sherman said.

To make the job more appealing, Sherman said her department has collaborated with other maintenance and food services to give drivers extra hours outside their shifts.

"They had a need. I had a need," Sherman said.

Last school year's routes were tough on Shanquil Fennell.

"Initially it was a challenge," the 22-year-old said. "The kids were testing me out because I was new."

Fennell had already been driving school buses for two years before coming to Victoria.

"I had to build a relationship with the kids," Fennell said.

One rambunctious child in particular, Fennell said, moved to the front seat behind him.

"I started talking to him about stuff he liked," Fennell said. "We had a shared interest in cars."

The automobile aficionado started classes at Victoria College last week. His plan is to get his associate degree and eventually work as a teacher. But even then, Fennell said he'd still like to drive school buses.

"I know the money's not all that, but I love doing this," Fennell said.

For now, Sherman said her staff is dedicated to getting all the routes covered. The director said they plan to make up for the lack of drivers with help from mechanics, bus washers and staff members.

"We're going to get the job done," Sherman said. "Working together we can accomplish this mission."



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