AUBURN — With two resignations this week alone, the Auburn School Department and administrators have come up with a four-step plan to get new bus drivers in the door and into the driver’s seat.

Reaching a critical situation with 5½ bus drivers short, the Transportation Department is seeking to raise salaries, offer nearly 100% insurance coverage, six-hour days and aides to travel on the routes with the most students.

Sheila Letourneau, who oversees bus transportation, and Billy Hunter, Auburn’s director of support services, spoke to members of the School Committee on Wednesday night at Auburn Hall. The panel appeared sympathetic to the dilemma, but some questioned the need of an aide on several bus routes.

“If you drive with 60 students on your bus, it’s quite an experience,” Hunter said.

He also described driving with 60 children is like driving with three classrooms sitting behind the driver. An aide would help with safety and help to control any misbehaving students.

The estimated cost for the added positions is $70,000. The money would come from leaving one of the 5½ positions open and savings from budgeted support staff.


The need won’t be fixed overnight. Hunter estimated that it takes three to six weeks to get a permit and another three to six weeks to get a license to drive a bus.

The committee took the plan under advisement.

In other business, Bonnie Hayes was elected chairwoman of the School Committee. She was acting chairwoman following the recent death of Thomas Kendall. Hayes defeated Karen Mathieu by one vote.

The committee also had a preliminary discussion on enrollment figures. The School Department has a total of 3,554 students, 61 fewer than a year ago. Edward Little High School dropped from 975 students to 949, 26 fewer than last year.

Superintendent Katy Grondin promised a more detailed look at the numbers at an upcoming meeting.

The committee went straight into executive session to start the meeting at 5:30 p.m. and did not return to open session for more than 90 minutes. The session behind closed doors dealt with Grondin’s expected evaluation.

The committee has never evaluated Grondin’s performance during her three years as superintendent. A public comment session lasted more than an hour and featured some wondering why no evaluation was done and telling the school board to “do your job.”

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