Bus driver session draws dissent

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Several Richmond County school bus drivers attended a Transportation Council meeting Thursday, at which driver absenteeism, tardiness and route delays were again discussed.

In the meeting, which was followed by a somewhat contentious exchange between a few drivers and school officials, interim schools Transportation Director Jimmie Wiley reported that the latest figures show 17 to 20 drivers out of 160 are absent on a given day, many because of illness.

Tardiness also was addressed, but Mr. Wiley said those numbers have improved lately. Such issues also were discussed in the council's November meeting, with some saying route delays have resulted when drivers did not show, forcing substitute drivers to take over routes with which they are not familiar.

School board member Alex Howard had previously asked whether Global Positioning System devices on buses could be programmed to give substitute drivers route instructions.

At Thursday's meeting, Mr. Howard was told that the current technology in buses doesn't allow that function but that the system is considering buying about 20 GPS units that could provide route directions.

Mr. Wiley also spoke about a hot line that drivers are to call if they're going to be tardy or absent. Bus drivers have said that when they call at 5:30 a.m., as instructed, there often isn't anyone there to answer. Mr. Wiley said in the past that occurred because the person assigned to answer the phones was busy with other duties. He said that a person is now answering the hot line early and that drivers are encouraged to call then, allowing the department to more quickly cover routes and prevent delays.

Sallie Thomas, a bus driver and council member, suggested at Thursday's meeting that the system consider hiring someone to focus on making bus routes more efficient. In an impromptu news conference after the meeting, Superintendent Dana Bedden said the idea isn't a bad one but that funding is a challenge.

Immediately after Thursday's meeting, some current and former bus drivers made their case to school officials, and emotions ran high. Several drivers said that they feel they don't get the respect they deserve and that they face retaliation if they speak out.

"We're just saying give us a better working environment," said council member and driver Caroneta Williams as she wiped away a tear. "...The issue is we need solutions.."

She said school board President Marion Barnes had said after Thursday's meeting that drivers could quit their jobs. Mr. Barnes later said he made the statement in response to a comment by former bus driver and former council member L.A. Green, who said some bus drivers wouldn't return after the holidays.

Dr. Bedden later said he doesn't punish workers for speaking out.

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

Comments (36) Add comment
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GaMedic
0
Points
GaMedic 12/18/09 - 10:02 am
0
0
Setting aside the issue of

Setting aside the issue of employee accountability, reliability for a moment, I'd like to comment on Dr. Bedden's statement that "the idea isn't a bad one" to hire someone to focus on making bus routes more efficient "but that the funding is a challenge." The school board can afford the funding for 2 people, yes TWO, to go around and check for mini-fridges that cost the BOE $40 per yr in energy costs but not the funds to ensure that the children arrive at school in the safest most efficient manner. Your tax dollars at work - go figure. The world isn't going to hell in a handbasket but by committee!!

to tell the truth1
138
Points
to tell the truth1 12/18/09 - 10:29 am
0
0
It is about time someone is

It is about time someone is attempting to take this problem more seriously. I can remember years back when my children rode the school bus, the bus driver was habitually tardy and it wasn't mechanical failure. Nothing was ever done about it. Only to make me tardy for my job to take my child to school on that given day..

disssman
6
Points
disssman 12/18/09 - 10:41 am
0
0
I would say if the drivers

I would say if the drivers want a say in their employment and working conditions, then they need to unionize. You don't see Bedden complaining about teachers out for weeks on sick leave. The reason he leaves them alone is the teachers union. And in conclusion, why did Bedden make the statement about punishing people who speak out?

Tots
25996
Points
Tots 12/18/09 - 10:50 am
0
0
dissman@9:41-The bus drivers

dissman@9:41-The bus drivers have a union.The RCBOE does not or will not recognize their union.

noway
201
Points
noway 12/18/09 - 11:10 am
0
0
Doesn't RCBOE use a GIS

Doesn't RCBOE use a GIS system to determine the best and most efficient routes? I bet they don't...if they did, they could solve a lot of these problems.

Concerned Parent2
0
Points
Concerned Parent2 12/18/09 - 11:17 am
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0
If anyone was being punished

If anyone was being punished for speaking out; it's the parents. GOD forbid you try to effect positive change on the Trans Dept; you are treated like an undesirable. The bus drivers do not respond to the discussion of rational issues. A few of those that attended the meeting yesterday, were only interested in telling other taxpayers what they could and could not say. In their minds, they had already separated the meeting attendees into "them" and "us". What followed after the Council Meeting was not constructive and I for one, am left with the image of bus drivers telling other meeting attendees not exercise their Constitutionally given rights to "Free Speech". They pointed their fingers, made accusations, and did not present one "solution" to better their work environment. They were correct about the Trans Council being about solutions. Why don't they use the suggestion box that is present in theor work area? Why don't they exercise the professionalism needed to address the tardiness and absenteeism within their ranks? A Union worth its' salt ensures that the workers rights are not abused. It does not assist workers in abusing their rights and limiting others' rights.

Tots
25996
Points
Tots 12/18/09 - 11:17 am
0
0
They used to have one lady

They used to have one lady Mrs Hill who did the routes.They never had the problems they have now.

Tots
25996
Points
Tots 12/18/09 - 11:32 am
0
0
They have to many people

They have to many people doing the same jobs.I've said this before if they have a bus driver who is always late, they can find out what the problem is.Only two things can be wrong,the driver or the way the route is run.

Concerned Parent2
0
Points
Concerned Parent2 12/18/09 - 11:38 am
0
0
My child has come home two

My child has come home two hours late because the bus driver went "cowboy" and drove the children through unchartered territory FOR THE LAST TIME. The bus driver was looking for a child who decided to try to "walk home". I am calling the Sheriff's Dept and the FBI to report the kidnapping. They kidnap our children for hours on end, and cannot tell you where they are. They are held hostage without the benefit of contact with their family, food and water, or bathroom facilities. A parent can repeatedly call the Trans Dept and they cannot tell you where the bus driver, school bus, or your child is located. They say they know how to use the present GPS System but, when I talk to someone at the Trans Dept (after multiple attempts to call) I can never be told the location of the school bus, the bus driver or my child. They don't know how to use the GPS they ALWAYS have to radio the bus. Calling the FBI to report the kidnappings will give the Trans Dept the "visibility" they need to "self-correct" these problems. I am fed up with the "foolishness".

atsugua13
0
Points
atsugua13 12/18/09 - 01:12 pm
0
0
Concerned Parent good luck

Concerned Parent good luck getting a timely response from the Sheriffs dept...We cant even get a quick response when there is an emergency on the bus...and as for the FBI.....get real.

butler123
1
Points
butler123 12/18/09 - 01:19 pm
0
0
I would imagine that it is

I would imagine that it is hard to find reliable people. It never has been a good paying job. It used to always be retired people looking to make extra money.

yeswewillMrPresident
0
Points
yeswewillMrPresident 12/18/09 - 01:29 pm
0
0
r u serious

r u serious

yeswewillMrPresident
0
Points
yeswewillMrPresident 12/18/09 - 01:32 pm
0
0
If there boss say pick up 2

If there boss say pick up 2 loads out of a school that is what the drivers have to do. They know the time frame it takes to drop off 2 loads of kids. Some bus routes are speeded far apart, you go from one side of town to the other to try and get the kids home in a timely and safe manner. The speed limit is only 40mph on a school bus. Parents fuss about kids getting picked up or get home late but they are not looking at it from different perspective, or they just not paying attention to what is going on with the system. When a person take a cut in pay and work days that you are not getting paid for there is a problem.

yeswewillMrPresident
0
Points
yeswewillMrPresident 12/18/09 - 01:32 pm
0
0
They must love what they do

They must love what they do because they r continuing to work in spite of everything that is going on. When you are on the outside looking in it looks like gravy. I say bus driver go on strike. Let’s see what they got to say then. Negative talk against bus driver needs to stop. They have a job that is very challenging. Augusta how about some support for the drivers. They take our kid to and from home in a safe manor that’s what counts. Being late sometime is understandable. Being sick and out from work sometime is understandable. Not being paid for the job they do is not. Question???? why is there not enough driver to fill in when driver r out. We have a problem and it’s not the drivers. Mr. Barnes is telling driver to quit it seems like we need all the help we can get. Find a solution Mr. Barnes do not add to the problem.

lifelongresidient
0
Points
lifelongresidient 12/18/09 - 02:34 pm
0
0
why not start by attempting

why not start by attempting to improve working conditions, allow the drivers to throw the "badazz", trifling, sorry, misbehaving kids off the buss and let their sorry, trifling and lazy parents find them away to school, then hire additiona good and responsible drivers, finally how about increasing their pay....on second thought i guess ms. cain and the other board members wont be able to increase pay because they are too busy building football stadiums/b-ball gymnasiums for school with low test/graduation rates and can't meet ayp in order to worry about something non-important as transporting children to school safely....busdrivers you have my support..hang in there

baronvonreich
0
Points
baronvonreich 12/18/09 - 02:37 pm
0
0
Does the transportation

Does the transportation director and his staff have to possess any qualifications at all? Can they not spend a little time analyzing the bus routes and spend an hour with each driver to get ideas on how to make them more efficient? Can they not embrace technology like GPS units with the bus routes pre-programmed so that anybody can drive a route? I mean these are quite simple things to do for anybody with any common sense, business sense, and proper qualifications for the job.

butler123
1
Points
butler123 12/18/09 - 03:38 pm
0
0
Good point, how do all other

Good point, how do all other school districts manage this?

justus4
103
Points
justus4 12/18/09 - 04:52 pm
0
0
What is the education
Unpublished

What is the education requirements for the Transportation Coordinator, because this appears to be management problem. The constant issues that arise from the complete lack of qualified individuals and intelligent managers. The ignorance in this area is stifling. Everywhere U go, U see this person not qualified to answer phones, but attempting to pass along information. For folks from other regions, this is a glaring problem that explains why the drivers have a hotline, but when called -no one is there. That just can't happen! Is there something in the water that affects these folks, because everyone seems to be just pointing fingers.

dani
12
Points
dani 12/18/09 - 06:10 pm
0
0
Is the RCBOE aware of the

Is the RCBOE aware of the fact that some drivers give door-to-door service. They will stop in front of the house, blow the horn and wait until the child comes out. It's like: "Bus stop! what is that? The poor child would have to pass three houses to get to the intersection, and they might miss the bus".

lifelongresidient
0
Points
lifelongresidient 12/18/09 - 06:26 pm
0
0
here we go, demonize all good

here we go, demonize all good bus drivers instead of the sorry parents...i agree dani, there should be a centralized bus stop instead of door-to-door service which wastes a lot of time and gas....

DAMY46
0
Points
DAMY46 12/18/09 - 06:36 pm
0
0
Well now.........Dr. Bedden

Well now.........Dr. Bedden ran off the Director of Transportation.....(they have been under 'new management' since July)..A couple of questions here: "You got what you wanted, so, what's the problem?"....also...."How's that change working out for ya?"

Tots
25996
Points
Tots 12/18/09 - 06:47 pm
0
0
dani@5:10-Very good post.That

dani@5:10-Very good post.That is part of the problem.Three years ago when they were having problems with certain buses always being late,parents complaining,I told them I would drive those routes for a few days or longer to see what the problem was .Said that all routes should be driven by whomever does the route planning for each bus.I only asked for a dollar more per hour.Soon after that they did hire someone to do the job.Still the job does not get done.They make alot more than the dollar extra per hour.

shockproof
0
Points
shockproof 12/18/09 - 07:10 pm
0
0
Anybody remember the days of

Anybody remember the days of Harry Hamm? His infamous saying was: "We're not hauling apples and oranges out there."
It's caring about the children, their safety and giving drivers the respect for such a "responsible" and critical, yes, critical job. They are "hauling" our children you know.

Tots
25996
Points
Tots 12/18/09 - 07:37 pm
0
0
Shockproof@6;10-Your telling

Shockproof@6;10-Your telling your age with that post.

Tots
25996
Points
Tots 12/18/09 - 07:50 pm
0
0
They have about five people

They have about five people working who helps with the routes.They all can drive a bus.I say make them drive the routes.See what the problems are.

Tots
25996
Points
Tots 12/18/09 - 08:01 pm
0
0
Dam46@5:46-It's not working

Dam46@5:46-It's not working .But some people wont to blame it all on Mr Wiley.Not me, I always liked Mr Wiley.Thought he was pretty fair.This new job has changed him.I dont think they need outside help.Mr Wiley you can do the job.Just do it like you used too.

corgimom
33199
Points
corgimom 12/18/09 - 08:01 pm
0
0
A bus route is set up before

A bus route is set up before school starts with what information they have. And then school starts. And the reality turns out to be far different. A bus driver carries hundreds of students a day. And those hundreds of students are moving. Parents are picking them up. Parents are not picking them up and they are riding the bus. Child care arrangements are changed. In high school, it's even worse. A kid goes out for sports/then doesn't go out for sports. They don't have jobs/ have jobs/ don't have jobs. It is never-ending. We are on our 10th transportation roster, and that's just for 21 kids, and we aren't even halfway done with the year.

Tots
25996
Points
Tots 12/18/09 - 08:15 pm
0
0
One very good reason the

One very good reason the buses get behind on their routes is because the parents are not home.The driver has to take the child back to the school,are try to come back again.That makes most drivers(15 to 20minutes late.

Tots
25996
Points
Tots 12/18/09 - 08:24 pm
0
0
Another reason-You the

Another reason-You the parents wont get out of the buses way.You think you have to park at the front door to pick your child up.We caint even get to the school to get the students,because of you.Then we caint get out.

corgimom
33199
Points
corgimom 12/18/09 - 08:36 pm
0
0
If the bus drivers go on

If the bus drivers go on strike, a lot of parents are going to be in a world of hurt. Good luck in getting your kids to school.

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