Panel considers bus driver management firm

Amid problems with absent or tardy bus drivers and difficulty finding qualified people to fill open positions, the Richmond County school system is considering having an outside firm manage its transportation personnel.

The school board's student services committee gave initial approval Tuesday night to a plan to seek requests for proposals from outside companies.

Superintendent Dana Bedden said officials would like to determine whether there are "people out there that just do the personnel aspect right now." He said the school system would still oversee day-to-day operation of the fleet.

High driver absenteeism is causing delays. Dr. Bedden told board members Tuesday that there were 2,972 driver-absence days last year. Divided by a 180-day work year, he said, that's nearly 17 drivers out a day. About 1,800 days were for sickness or personal leave. From July 1 to Dec. 3 this year, he said, there have been about 1,800 absence days, about 700 accounted for through sickness or personal leave.

Board members were told that a driver out three days because of sickness must present a doctor's note. In certain cases, a note can be required on a single sick day, and one is usually requested if an absence follows a holiday break.

Dr. Bedden said he didn't want the transportation department's many good workers to get the wrong impression from the push for an outside personnel firm.

"This does not mean I have an opinion that all of our drivers don't do a good job, because many of them do," he said.

The full board will consider the plan at its next meeting Dec. 15.

Also on Tuesday, the board tabled a proposed ban on certain personal appliances at schools. Board President Marion Barnes said he wanted to wait until the Dec. 15 meeting to discuss the policy because Dr. Bedden left committee meetings early.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3851 or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

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