Buckingham County bus drivers get a raise. Here’s what’s changing

Published 3:52 am Thursday, September 14, 2023

Bus drivers need respect. That’s what Chuck Graves reminded Buckingham County supervisors on Monday, as he encouraged them to approve raises. 

“Bus drivers, if nothing else, we just want to be respected,” said Graves. “We don’t get the accolades a lot of times.” 

Graves pointed out that at the beginning of the school year, everyone is honored and applauded from the superintendent all the way to the cooks in the cafeteria. But too often, he said, bus drivers get left out. 

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“Without us, some of those kids don’t get to school,” Graves said. “You don’t see the fights on the bus. But why do I do it? Because God has given me a ministry of children and my bus is my platform. I believe in children.” 

Graves said if no raises came, he wouldn’t complain or throw a fit. But he asked supervisors to show the drivers the same respect they do teachers and other school staff. 

Supervisors make a decision 

The Buckingham supervisors heard and acknowledged what Graves said. But they did more than that. They took action. By a unanimous vote, with Dennis Davis absent, supervisors signed off on a pay raise for bus drivers. 

The board voted to give Buckingham County Public Schools bus drivers a raise of $100 per day with the money coming from the end of the year budget. 

This discussion started at last month’s meeting after bus drivers in Albemarle County walked off the job three days before the start of school leaving the families of 900 children scrambling to make a plan to get their students to school. 

Supervisor T. Jordan Miles III of District 4 cited that over 220 schools in the nation were surveyed and the report showed that the main reason districts were losing bus drivers was due to pay. He also shared about one district in Kentucky that has buses doing three to four routes and not getting home until 10 p.m. 

“This is a nationwide issue and I think we need to be proactive,” said Miles. 

Supervisor Cameron Gilliam of District 2 gave the motion after stating his support for the bus drivers. He noted that this is a job he would not want to do with leaving early in the morning and getting home late at night. He gave an example of how bus drivers are always on call as there were a couple of early releases the week before causing the drivers to stop their mid-day plans and come into work unexpectedly. 

“Had these guys been out fishing or out hunting they’d have to hustle back to get back to the house to get back to work, or ladies as well,” said Gilliam. “I don’t want you to think that your job goes unrecognized.”

Bus drivers part of a team 

Gilliam also gave his father’s example of working as a team. He compared it to football as it’s not just about the running back making touchdowns but also the defense tackling the other team. A team has to have every part working together and part of that is making sure the bus drivers are taken care of. 

He also noted that this motion was not to slight the school board in any way. He hopes that this will show that they are also a team working together for the betterment of the county. 

“This is not to slight the school board if we make this motion but to help the employees of Buckingham County,” said Gilliam. “I hope this will show that we are working as a team and working together for a common goal.” 

According to Buckingham Public Schools Superintendent Dr. John Keebler, there are currently 38 bus drivers in the district. Fortunately for the county, there are only two open positions that still need to be filled. This new raise will hopefully help fill those positions while preventing more openings as the school year moves forward.