Fort Worth crossing guards get a raise; council members want to do more   

dfwnewsa | January 29, 2024 | 0 | Fort Worth , Fort Worth News

Fort Worth crossing guards get a raise; council members want to do more   

John Lyons works as a crossing guard for Parkview Elementary School at the intersection of North Beach Street and Longstraw Drive. He started working as a crossing guard in 2019. (Rachel Behrndt | Fort Worth Report)
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The only thing standing between Parkview Elementary students and eight lanes of oncoming traffic: crossing guard John Lyons. 

Lyons, a retired police officer, lives four blocks away from the Keller ISD school and, for the past five years, has told anyone who asks just how much he loves his job.

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“I don’t have any grandchildren, so this is a way for me to get my grandpa fix,” Lyons said. 

Despite his best efforts to stop traffic, he can’t count the number of times either he or a child has  almost been hit by drivers speeding through the intersection at North Beach Street and Longstraw Drive. 

“I can hold up the stop sign — I use the flashlight when it’s a little dark, to try to get people’s attention — but, really, it’s up to these cars,” Lyons said. “If they choose to stop, great. If they don’t, it can get really dicey.” 

The Fort Worth City Council voted last Tuesday to amend its contract with All City Management Services to increase hourly wages for crossing guards from $12 to $13.50. The company contracts with the city of Fort Worth to provide crossing guards to more than 150 schools in 14 school districts. 

Find your nearest crossing guard here

City Council members hope the wage increase will make it easier to fill crossing guard positions, as about 10% go unfilled regularly because of high turnover. 

Under the new contract, the city will pay All City Management Services $3.05 million annually. The company does background checks, training and payroll for the city’s crossing guards. The city pays about $7.53 in overhead for every billable hour crossing guards work. 

“That is extremely high,” council member Jared Williams, who represents parts of south Fort Worth, said. 

Fort Worth plans to seek a new contract with lower overhead costs, which would allow the city to pay crossing guards even more. A request for proposals will be posted by the city soon, said Lara Ingram, a spokesperson for the Transportation and Public Works Department.  

Fort Worth City Council wants to pay crossing guards more 

State law requires cities to employ crossing guards and maintain intersections, roads and sidewalks surrounding schools. Fort Worth’s contract with All City Management Services used to be managed by the Fort Worth police department. In 2022, it became the responsibility of the city’s Transportation and Public Works Department. 

Rashad Jackson manages the program for the city. Keeping positions filled is especially challenging in north Fort Worth, where hourly wages tend to be higher, Jackson said. The roads there are also often underdeveloped, lacking traffic signals or sidewalks.

“We want to get that corrected by getting to a pay that is kind of fair across the board,” Jackson said. “We’ve been behind … but we are making steps to make sure that we’re getting to a fair wage.” 

Crossing guards are funded through the Crime Control and Prevention District, a special purpose tax district that funds crime prevention and intervention programs both internally and in partnership with local, registered nonprofits. 

At a November meeting of the Crime Control and Prevention District, council members discussed the crossing guard contract that they eventually approved. Council members asked if the contract could be adjusted to provide crossing guards a $15.45 hourly wage while maintaining the same annual cost to the city. According to All City Management Services, the change would have resulted in a loss for the company.

Council members also considered moving management of crossing guards within the city. The city began contracting with an outside management company in 2016 after the police department said it lacked the staff and time to manage the program internally. 

By Mayor Mattie Parker’s math, the city is currently paying $1.5 million per year for a company to manage the program. 

“For $1.5 million, we could staff that and pay (the crossing guards) more money,” Parker said. 

Williams agrees that moving the program in-house could be the solution.

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“I think it’s really important that we’re honoring our employees and making sure they’re earning a wage that allows them to live in this city,” Williams said.  

The city did not have enough time to seek a new contract or move management of the program within the city, Ingram said. That process would take several months, she said. Terminating the contract would have left schools without crossing guards, she added. Instead, the city extended its contract with All City Management Services, which included the new hourly wage of $13.50 per hour. 

Lyons, the crossing guard, was present when council members approved the new contract. He supported the increase and asked for more help to keep kids safe on their way to school. 

“Nobody wants to stand out in front of cars and try to do this job for $12 an hour,” Lyons told council members. 

John Lyons helps Parkview Elementary School students cross the street on Monday morning, Jan. 29. He uses a stop sign and flashlight to get motorists’ attention. (Rachel Behrndt | Fort Worth Report) 

‘Look at these kids as your own’

A headstone and flowers mark where, in 2020, a motorcyclist was killed in a crash at Lyon’s intersection near Parkview Elementary School. The crash took place during school hours, but kids were not in school at the time, as Keller ISD schools were closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“It reminds me every morning how deadly this intersection is,” Lyons said. 

He has many stories of near-misses and close calls while working as a crossing guard on North Beach Street. Once, he saved a child from getting hit by grabbing the handle of his backpack and pulling him backward seconds before a car sped through the intersection. 

Rene Shamlin walks her child through Lyons’ intersection every school day. She said she also has nearly been hit multiple times in four years. Lyons wants people to be aware of the dangers and pay more attention to pedestrians walking through intersections. 

See also  How many jobs is Fort Worth ISD eliminating? The district answers

The city spends millions of dollars through its Safe Routes to School program, funded in part by the North Central Texas Council of Government. The program builds and improves sidewalks, ramps, curbs and signage in neighborhoods around the schools.  

As Fort Worth continues to grow south and north, the city is working to keep up, building schools to serve students in the rapidly growing Crowley and Northwest ISDs.

There are several major roads next to schools in Williams’ district, he said.  

“This is a part of a larger priority to ensure we’re investing in infrastructure that ensures our residents are safe,” Williams said. 

Despite the city’s efforts to raise wages, most crossing guards apply for the job because they want to protect children in their community, Jackson said. The No. 1 thing motorists can do is be aware of their surroundings. 

“Look at these kids as your own, and slow down,” Jackson said. 

Lyons stays involved with Parkview, a Title I school, outside of his job as crossing guard. He attends PTA meetings and school events, regularly receiving tokens of appreciation from parents who drop off gift cards, donuts and coffee. In 2023, he was named crossing guard of the year by All City Management Services, a title he wears proudly on his hat and lanyard. 

But it’s interactions with the kids that are Lyons’ biggest reward, he said. 

“That’s what makes the job enjoyable,” Lyons said. “I know I’ve gotten them across the street, they can get to school, get them across the street and get them home.”

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at rachel.behrndt@fortworthreport.org or via X.

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