District Increases Pay for Critical Frontline Workers – Bus Drivers, Food Service Staff, School Nurses

Bus Drivers and Food Service Staff Receive $3 Hourly Increase

As the nation’s schools continue to navigate both the pandemic and a bus driver shortage, the Niskayuna Central School District has responded by increasing pay for some of its critical front-line workers – bus drivers, food service staff, and nurses – in partnership with the employee organizations.

The pay increases were included in memorandums of agreement with the respective employee bargaining units approved by the Niskayuna Board of Education on Tuesday, Oct. 19. These agreements provide:

  • Bus Drivers: A $3.00 increase in the hourly wage for school bus drivers, retroactive to the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. Current bus drivers will also receive a $500 stipend in December of this year and those who remain employed by the district through the end of this school year will receive another $500 at that time.
  • Food Service Staff: Food service helpers and cook managers will receive a $3 increase in their hourly wages, retroactive to the beginning of this school year
  • School Nurses: School nurses will receive a $2,500 stipend for the current 2021-22 school year.

The district is working in partnership with the employee bargaining unit that represents custodians, cleaners, maintenance and grounds workers toward a similar agreement.

Employees in these groups and many others are going above and beyond in many ways in light of the pandemic and other factors. Examples include bus drivers who are driving multiple routes or combined routes due to the shortage, food service workers that have assisted with weekly meal pickups and other necessary changes, and nurses that are facilitating contact tracing on top of all regular duties to ensure student health and well-being.

“The message should be clear that every single employee in our school district plays a critical role in making sure our students are safe, happy, healthy and learning,” said Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Juliette Pennyman. “Our Board of Education recognizes that our employees, including these critical frontline workers, continue to contribute so much, in ways large and small, to make sure our schools keep running during this extraordinary time.”

The pay increases come as the schools across the nation and state, including Niskayuna, continue to confront a critical shortage of school bus drivers. In Niskayuna, the shortage has resulted in bus routes being combined and associated pickup and drop-off delays, mechanics – who are certified drivers – leaving the garage to drive students, and delays or cancellations of athletic trips.

This agreement brings the starting salary of a permanent bus driver to $22.99 per hour in Niskayuna. At the same time, the district is launching an outreach campaign to attract potential bus drivers to join its transportation team, including through a new video on its social media channels and a flyer that will appear at community locations.

As outlined on the new flyer, the benefits of being a school bus driver include: it’s a part-time job with evenings, holidays and weekends off; paid training is available; and you get to work with students and make a difference.

The flyer also highlights current Niskayuna drivers sharing what they love about the job: “The work hours are good, it’s a great job to supplement my pension in retirement and it’s a good crew to work with,” said driver John Joyce.

Anyone interested in joining the district’s bus driver team should call 518-370-0160 and ask for Cindi or dial ext. 33704, or email cindi.mickle@neric.org