In the fall of 2021, Chesterfield County public schools in suburban Virginia was managing a severe bus driver shortage. The district of nearly 65,000 students would typically need more than 500 drivers to staff its 2,400 daily routes. Heading into the school year, they were short 200 drivers.
Initially, the district reached out to parents and asked them to drive their children to school. But leadership knew they needed a long-term solution.
Over the course of a weekend, they came up with a plan. After talking to drivers and learning that many were simply leaving for better paying jobs elsewhere, the district worked with its Board of Supervisors to increase bus driver pay by $3 an hour, and to give drivers $3,000 bonuses, which they would receive over the course of six months in order to encourage retention.
But increasing pay was only the first step. They needed to build a pipeline of drivers.
Here, Chesterfield County public schools Superintendent Mervin B. Daugherty explains how the district reimagined its hiring process. Through a single job fair, he explains, applicants could go through all the steps they needed to get hired – from the application, to the interview, to a health screening, and a background check all at once.
It’s a process that enabled the district to reach full staffing for drivers by late winter of that same school year. And it is a process they continue to use for hiring of all positions across the school system, from teachers and substitutes, to paraprofessionals and cafeteria workers.