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Ken-Ton & NYSDOL Launch Free Bus Driver Training Program

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The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District has been awarded a one-year $249,808 grant by the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) Unemployed/Underemployed Worker Training Program to create a first-of-its-kind free school bus driver training program. The grant will be implemented by Ken-Ton’s Adult & Community Education Department and will address the ongoing bus driver shortage, which has affected school districts throughout Western New York and the nation.

The new Ken-Ton School District Class B School Bus Driver Training Program will include six 6-week sessions, each with a goal of 12 licensed drivers for a total of 72 over the course of the year. The program will not only provide the free training necessary to become licensed and prepared for a career as a bus driver, it will also remove barriers by providing other supportive services such as permit/license fees, fingerprinting costs, childcare stipends, and benchmark incentives for successful licensing.

Ken-Ton School District Superintendent Sabatino Cimato said, “As a district, we have worked extremely hard to attract bus drivers, from signing/referral bonuses and hosting hiring events to comprehensive training and licensing support for candidates. Although these efforts have helped us mitigate the bus driver shortage here in Ken-Ton, this situation continues to challenge our ability to offer the best possible transportation services for our students and families. The shortage of drivers has resulted in bus delays, late arrivals, and increased costs. Yet, this is not a problem we have in isolation. This program will increase the number of licensed bus drivers regionally. Thanks to this grant from the NYS Department of Labor and the outstanding work of our Adult & Community Education Director, Liza Acanfora, and Grants Coordinator, Connie Miner, Ken-Ton will become a regional hub for training the bus drivers of tomorrow and provide an innovative solution to this pressing challenge.”

New York State Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “Transportation is a key part of ensuring that our children are able to receive a quality education. The Department proudly supports this innovative program, which will improve access to learning opportunities for those looking to become bus drivers, an occupation that is in high demand statewide. I thank the Ken-Ton School District for helping us connect Western New Yorkers to new careers they love.”

The Ken-Ton School District Adult & Community Education Department, which is among the largest operations of its kind in WNY, operates programs in a multitude of areas including community education, adult English as a Second Language, GED preparation, and workforce development. The goal of the department is to offer additional opportunities in the greater Ken-Ton community that extend beyond the traditional K-12 framework.

Director of Adult & Community Education Liza Acanfora said, “We sincerely appreciate the generous support of the New York State Department of Labor. One of our biggest priorities as a department is increasing opportunities for adult learners in our community. This project is an example of how local school districts can work in partnership with New York State to find creative ways to address pressing needs within our workforce and provide career opportunities for the unemployed or underemployed.”

Grants Coordinator Connie Miner said, “Ken-Ton appreciates this opportunity to work with DOL to implement this program, which will have a significant impact in our district and across Western New York.”

Transportation Director Graham Violino said, “There are many different ways we have tried to relieve the burden of the bus driver shortage, such as modifying start and end times, combining routes, paying private companies to take over runs, and aggressively advertising driver positions. None of these solutions have addressed the root of the problem, which is the need to increase the number of Class B licensed bus drivers available in our workforce. This new program will create a seamless pipeline for anyone to become a bus driver, which is an extremely rewarding profession.

Bus drivers are one of the most important roles in K-12 education. Every child's education depends upon their ability to get to and from school safely. Bus drivers are also the first school staff that students see each day and the last they see before returning home. Ken-Ton is a prime destination for prospective bus drivers, offering competitive wages, a signing bonus of up to $1,000, NYS retirement pension, sick days/holidays, a split schedule (providing time for daytime errands), family-friendly hours, and summers off. For more information on becoming a bus driver in Ken-Ton, visit

The goal of the NYSDOL Unemployed/Underemployed Worker Training (UWT) Program is to support strategic regional efforts that meet businesses' short-term workforce needs, improve regional talent pipelines, expand apprenticeships, and address the long-term needs of expanding industries. UWT-supported programs provide occupational skills training to unemployed/underemployed individuals to qualify them for full-time or part-time employment or if currently employed, a higher level of employment.

The District was grateful to receive letters of support from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, New York State Assemblyman William Conrad, SUNY Erie, the Ken-Ton Chamber of Commerce and Catholic Charities as part of the application process.