Franklin County Public Schools has hired a new supervisor of transportation, just as it continues recruiting for qualified bus drivers.
The new supervisor, Cherie Whitlow, comes to Franklin County from Henry County where she served for 22 years – first as a teacher and coach. She also held positions there as assistant principal, athletic director and principal. Before heading north, she was Henry County’s supervisor of transportation.
“My husband is an employee of Franklin County Public Schools, and we decided that it would be in the best interest of our family for us to be on the same school schedule,” she said.
As supervisor, Whitlow is responsible for the safe travel of all students riding the county’s 155 buses. Those buses follow daily routes totaling approximately 13,000 miles, Whitlow said.
“The first and foremost of importance is to transport the children of FCPS safely and efficiently,” she said. “As a transportation team we are working together to develop a plan to educate all stakeholders on the importance of school bus safety.”
In addition to bus safety, Whitlow is also working to address the shortage of bus drivers in the county.
“There’s not only a shortage here, but a shortage nationwide,” she said. “This year we are working extremely hard to recruit bus drivers, assistants and athletic drivers. We want to do everything we can to offer employment for those individuals interested.”
The bus driver application has three parts.
A pre-application requires a copy of an applicant’s driver’s license, initials certifying the achievement of a high school diploma or GED and a record proving good standing with the Division of Motor Vehicles. If those requirements are met, the applicant can move on to the application.
In addition to filling out a written portion, the applicant must furnish money orders to cover a criminal background check and to obtain any child abuse records.
A negative TB test must be on file, and the applicant must complete a successful interview with a school bus driver trainer.
Once this phase is complete, the applicant may move on to the “Requirements” phase of the application process, which includes all required training.
“We do all of the training here on the lot for individuals that want to become a driver,” Whitlow said. “We do have a great need for drivers, but we will only accept the most qualified drivers in our division. We are looking for the best.”
Training for qualified drivers includes classroom training, drug and alcohol training, obtaining a CDL license, on-the-road training and a pre-trip inspection.
“We are not only in need of full-time drivers, but assistants, part-time drivers and substitutes, as well,” Whitlow said.
A driver shortage requires mechanics and other department staff to fill in should a driver become unable to run a route, she added.
Drivers for athletics and field trips are also needed.
“You don’t have to sign on for full time,” Whitlow said. “We welcome any and all qualified applicants.”
While the search for drivers continues, Whitlow said she strives daily to learn the lay of the county, as well as develop relationships with community and school personnel.
“I have enjoyed meeting the bus drivers and bus assistants,” she said. “The entire transportation staff is top-notch. I appreciate the job they do each and every day.”
She is also spending time on the roads, evaluating routes and checking out school bus stops.
“In the three months I have worked in FCPS, I have worked to become familiar with procedures and policies that the transportation department has in place,” she said. “I am absorbing new information daily and will enhance procedures as needed.”
Bus driver applications are available at the division’s transportation department at 250 School Service Road, Rocky Mount.
Interested applicants may also call the department at 483-5541.