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Richmond County bus drivers want voices heard

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Monique Braswell, a mother of four and the president of the Richmond County Council of PTAs, stood outside the board of education building Tuesday with 40 school bus drivers and parents huddled around her.

She hushed the crowd, raised her voice and began by telling them not to be discouraged.

“I know y’all are frustrated,” Braswell said. “I am, too, but let’s do this in the right way, because then we don’t give them a reason to say we’re being irate, we’re being obnoxious.”

Bus drivers and members of the PTA have started the school year by expressing the longstanding problems they see with the transportation department and demanding the school board address them. While drivers say they have reached out to administrators repeatedly with no results, at least one board member said this is the first time he has received a request for help.

At the board’s regular meeting Tuesday, Braswell asked the board to set up a forum this week to address their concerns. To give the transportation director and other administrators enough time to gather information, the board added the group to the agenda of a called meeting set for Monday.

Standing outside the board of education after Tuesday’s meeting, Braswell said bus drivers are ready to request serious changes next week.

Driver Maurice Boyd said the problems he has seen this year have been going on for years. Boyd said he e-mailed a four-page list of concerns to board members before Tuesday’s meeting because following the chain of command in the transportation department has not worked.

According to Boyd, children are delayed getting to and from school because drivers are given double and triple routes daily.

The workload is the result of a shortage of drivers and high turnover caused by low morale, Boyd said.

The buses they drive are overcrowded, he said, and almost unbearable in the 100-degree heat.

“All of us are tired of being blamed for problems we’re not causing,” said Sallie Thomas, a 29-year driver. “Kids are being dropped off late because routes aren’t right. That’s not our fault, that’s administrative.”

Board member Jimmy Atkins said the transportation department is working to get beginning-of-the-year hiccups resolved. The district is dealing not only with the start of school, but also a new method of transporting students.

The transportation department designed a shuttle system that takes magnet school students from their schools to the middle schools for which they are zoned in the afternoons, where they transfer to a different bus to be brought home.

The system is supposed to save time and money, but it caused hours of delays in the first few days of the school year.

While drivers say they have asked for changes but have been ignored, Atkins said no one has approached him before Tuesday with problems.

When the school board adjourned the meeting Tuesday without holding a discussion about transportation problems, the roughly 40 drivers in the audience burst into laughter.

Driver James Swanagan said he can’t help but feel ignored. As he got out of his seat, Swanagan, a minister, whispered under his breath.

“Father, forgive them for their sins because they know not what they do,” he said.

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willie7
951
Points
willie7 08/16/11 - 10:48 pm
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0
Some heads need to roll in
Unpublished

Some heads need to roll in the RCSS Transportation Department
This seems to be a management problem.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 08/16/11 - 11:03 pm
0
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Frankly, more than heads

Frankly, more than heads should role.....privatize it. It wil run better, cost less and would be more responsive to parents. Maybe team up with the company running transportation for the city and have one director to cut expenses for both government agencies.

Reverie
54
Points
Reverie 08/17/11 - 05:48 am
0
0
That too efficient for the

That too efficient for the Board to approve. They will not give up control. Seems like politics between the Board and transportation management. This has been going on for years and its always blamed on the drivers. Why are all bus problems deferred to the magnet school bus route problem. That is but one of many issues. Seems like someone doesn't want to face all the issues.

grovetownman
63
Points
grovetownman 08/17/11 - 08:15 am
0
0
what the article doesn't
Unpublished

what the article doesn't mention is that some drivers don't even show up for work or they call in 5 minutes before they are supposed to be on their routes picking up children. As they say though, leadership starts from the top down.

what is wrong
1
Points
what is wrong 08/17/11 - 09:29 am
0
0
It is easy for us to say

It is easy for us to say privatize it, what about the drivers and mechanics? Some of them have been there for over 20 yrs, and really do a great job. These drivers know their kids, and some even know the parents. Most of them care about their jobs so don’t punish them for the few that don’t. Before you offer a solution, step in their shoes please. How many drivers and mechanics have you spoken to lately? My prayers are with you drivers and mechanics, hopefully they will understand.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 08/17/11 - 12:22 pm
0
0
What is wrong....although I

What is wrong....although I can sympathize, leaders MUST do what is best for the whole and especially the taxpayers. If it is best to privatize then that is what should be done - if bus service will be as efficient or better and cost the taxpayers less, there should be no further discussion. If however, the governmnet can do it better (very doubtful) the go for it. Why would you "punish" all of the thousands of taxpayers and children riding the busses? The good employees will always be good employees and will probably rise faster within the private sector anyway.

nothin2show4it
120
Points
nothin2show4it 08/17/11 - 01:01 pm
0
0
Qualified leadership would be
Unpublished

Qualified leadership would be a very good start in correcting the problems. Why do both school systems have poor leadership and management skills running the transportation departments? Go back and watch the old reports. The management always hangs the drivers out to dry making it look like it is their fault.

Privatization isn't the answer either. There is a simple solution. Support the drivers, treat them well and things will get quiet in a hurry. There will be a few disgruntled people but you will find that wherever you go.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 08/17/11 - 05:59 pm
0
0
Nothing2show4it....If a

Nothing2show4it....If a private company can provide better service for less money to the taxpayers why exactly isn't it the answer?

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