LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Nearly two months after enacting a $200 bonus each time a bus driver and special-needs transportation assistant reports to work every day during a two-week pay period, officials with Jefferson County Public Schools say they've seen a noticeable difference.

The number of those employees taking advantage of the bonus has increased each pay period since the incentive was passed at the Oct. 24 school board meeting, according to data provided to WDRB News this week. Through the pay period ending Dec. 2, JCPS has paid out about $500,000 in perfect attendance bonuses.

"The last pay period, about 90 percent of our drivers qualified and received the bonus," said Randy Frantz, the director of transportation for JCPS. "Historically, during the winter months we average 7 to 10 percent daily absenteeism. The past six weeks, we have been averaging about a 4 to 5 percent daily absenteeism. It appears that this bonus has been effective. It's working."

The data shows:

  • 779 employees had perfect attendance during the 10/22/16 - 11/4/16 pay period
  • 849 employees had perfect attendance during the 11/5/16 - 11/18/16 pay period
  • 865 employees had perfect attendance during the 11/19/16 – 12/02/16 pay period

The pilot program -- which will be reviewed by the district in January -- was aimed at combating a bus driver shortage and reducing the number of those calling out sick daily. The bonus gives bus drivers and special needs transportation assistants up to $400 a month in extra pay.

"I was really excited because it's the easiest $200 you are going to make in JCPS," says Glenn Pontrich, who has been a district bus driver for nine years. "All you have to do is show up."

The incentive was the latest move by the district to address the shortage and issue of drivers who call out sick daily. The first two months of the school year, JCPS had to cancel more than 100 routes – mostly to and from the district’s alternative schools due to both the shortage and absenteeism.

In September, the board approved a plan to pay for a new driver’s CDL training – reimbursing them the $75 cost – as well as give them a $150 bonus after they work 90 days.

"Every time we have to drop a route, it's a punch in the gut to our organization," Frantz said in an interview Wednesday. "We have one job and that's to provide reliable and safe transportation. When we can't get our 70,000 kids to school each day, that's a problem."

Frantz says he hopes the incentive will continue.

"District leadership and the board will revisit the program next month and look at the improvement in absenteeism as well as the cost to the district and weigh all of our options," he said. "At this point, the vast majority of our drivers are showing up to work every day and we thank them for what they do each day."

Pontrich says he has not missed a day of work in "quite a while" but says the bonus is appreciated.

"It's come in handy, especially this time of the year," he said.

Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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