Local school superintendent drives bus when subs can’t be found

Newton Superintendent Pat McBride helps the school district when it is in need of substitute bus drivers. Many districts have experienced shortages for drivers. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

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Newton Superintendent Pat McBride helps the school district when it is in need of substitute bus drivers. Many districts have experienced shortages for drivers. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Students in one area district could get a surprise when they board the school bus: the superintendent behind the wheel.

School districts throughout the Miami Valley have seen a challenge the past few years hiring full-time and substitute bus drivers.

Newton Superintendent Pat McBride decided four years ago that he would take the matter into his own hands when their busing staff was limited. He earned his class B CDL license to become an unpaid substitute bus driver.

“We’re a small school district. There’s around 600 students in the K through 12 grades,” McBride said. “We have a great transportation group, but we’ve had trouble getting subs. I saw it was convenient for me, working on a farm and driving big vehicles. I figured I could drive a school bus when needed.”

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McBride said the reason substitute drivers are difficult to find is because of low pay and the inconvenience of the shifts. Drivers are needed to pick up students for four hours in the morning and then take them home in the late afternoon.

“It was pretty daunting to start to be honest. There was a lot of inspections and remembering all of the parts of the bus,” McBride said.

In the state of Ohio to receive a CDL license, a knowledge and skills test and other medical requirements are needed to pass along with hours of driving time and classroom time according to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in Ohio.

McBride said the experience changed his perspective on how difficult school bus transportation can be.

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“I grew up in our district so I know it well. I can see how that could be nerve-racking for a substitute driver, driving in the dark morning trying to find addresses in an area not familiar with. I have an advantage, knowing the kids and the families, the addresses in the community. I wasn’t as nervous as someone unfamiliar with the area,” McBride said.

When asked what he recommends to other school districts struggling to fill positions for bus drivers, he said to keep asking people.

“We ask our staff if they’re interested. One of our teachers who is also a coach is a sub driver along with a part time nurse in our schools. We also have a woman whose kids attend our schools and she is a sub driver while working part time elsewhere,” McBride said.

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With drivers ranging in years of experience and exceeding 40 years driving in Newton, the staff are happy with their jobs and working with the students said McBride.

With school starting Tuesday for Newton Schools, they are adequately staffed in both full-time and substitute bus drivers.

“I drive when they need me to. Not as much as I use to. However, last year I did drive several times toward the end of the year when we were in a pinch,” McBride said.

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