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06-18-14: District responds to bus drivers' distribution of materials
06-18-14: District responds to bus drivers' distribution of materials
Posted on 06/17/2014

Student safety is a high priority in the Puyallup School District. Safely transporting students to and from school has always been a priority, which is evident this year in the district's decision to replace outdated equipment, implement route planning software to improve efficiency, increase mechanics and fleet inspections, construct additional Transportation department parking, and replace more than 30 school buses.


Maintaining a strong staff of bus drivers is also a high priority. For this reason, Puyallup School District leadership has continued bargaining in good faith since June 2013 in an effort to negotiate a fair and reasonable contract with bus drivers. Recently, it became evident that mediation would be necessary in order to come to a resolution. Mediation seeks to prevent conflicts from escalating, and the focus is on mutual acceptability. The Public Employment Relations Commission has been charged with facilitating mediation between the district and the bus drivers.


One of the primary concerns expressed by bus drivers focuses on earning what some are calling a "living wage." The living wage is $17.68 for two adults and one child in Pierce County, as calculated by Penn State's Poverty in America project. While the base salaries for Puyallup School District bus drivers are $17.00, $18.16, and $19.26 per hour for the first three years of employment respectively, the average hourly wage of the district's 137 bus drivers is $19.22. In part, this is due to additional compensation provided through previous bargaining sessions. For example, drivers receive longevity incentives, as well as a vacation allocation of seven to 20 paid days annually.


Efficiency is a primary concern in the Puyallup School District. Across all departments, leadership is evaluating current practices and planning changes to improve efficiency. One measure of efficiency in the Transportation department is provided by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).  The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 28A.160.117 requires OSPI to use linear programming to provide an efficiency rating for each school district's transportation operation. Elements considered in making this calculation include the following:


-        Number of basic riders and number of special riders

-        Average distance between bus stops and destination

-        Number of destinations (schools) provided with service

-        School district's land area

-        Number of kindergarten routes

-        Number of miles of roadway traveled


It is challenging, based on many of these elements, to meet OSPI's efficiency rating goals in Puyallup. The geographical area served by Puyallup School District buses consists of three distinct areas. Additionally, the district's large special education and McKinney-Vento (homeless) populations make efficiency difficult given current laws. Our resolve to serve all students equitably makes it a challenge as well. OSPI recommends improving efficiency ratings by eliminating certain runs. Another suggestion for increasing the efficiency rating is to eliminate all mid-day kindergarten bus runs. With the implementation of full-day kindergarten beginning this fall, our efficiency rating should improve.


Puyallup School District leadership will continue to work with the bus drivers' leadership through the mediation process in an effort to negotiate a fair and reasonable contract.