Districts Struggle to Fill Crossing Guard Posts

Article excerpt

Across the nation, and at local school bus stops, crossing guards are becoming noticeably absent.

In Florida, an elementary school principal sometimes doubles as a crossing guard because no one else is interested in the job.

In Trafford, the borough administrator sometimes steps in.

This past summer, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department pleaded with residents to apply for nearly 30 crossing guard positions, paying $8.91 an hour, in the Clark County School District.

Pittsburgh Public Schools budgeted for 204 school crossing guards, but have only been able to find 129, said Marlene Lamanna, a crossing guard in her Highland Park neighborhood since 1978.

"We have several guards that work two intersections," said Lamanna, who is also a union official.

She points to several reasons for the lack of applicants.

"Things are different today. When I started, there were more two- parent families. Today, single parents can't raise a child on crossing guard wages or pay for day care or health care benefits," Lamanna said.

She said requirements have not become more stringent, but many applicants now have difficulty passing some of the pre-screening tests.

"In the late 1970s we had 2,000 applicants for the jobs and the city was very strict. They don't do this today, but back then, if you got divorced or pregnant, you were terminated. They didn't want you to put your children in day care, so they preferred women to be school crossing guards," she said.

There are 67,750 school crossing guards in the nation, making an average hourly wage of $10.71, according to May 2006 statistics, the most recent available from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Pennsylvania ranked among states with the highest number of crossing guards, but it falls low on the pay scale.

The 4,790 guards -- less than 1 percent of the state's work force -- made an average of $9.08 per hour. Only Utah and Maine pay guards less, with averages of $8.27 and $8.50, respectively.

Pittsburgh crossing guards, represented by the Service Employees International Union Local 192B since 1969, make close to $13,000 annually and work five hours per day, which includes travel time, said Lamanna, the union president.

In Trafford, the high turnover of crossing guards has become problematic for several years. There are slots for three guards, at $7.15 an hour,

"We have one woman that's been here for over 30 years, but until a couple of years ago, we had great difficulty filling those other two," Mallik said. "But we do continue to have trouble getting substitutes."

Sometimes, Mallik or a police officer steps in. She said pulling an officer off the streets isn't always easy. "That can be a problem because we don't have an officer to spare all the time," she said.

North Huntingdon employs 11 school crossing guards who work two to three hours on school days, at $7. …