by: Rachel Stockman Updated:ATLANTA —
Atlanta Public School bus drivers packed a school board meeting, demanding answers on everything from problems with pay to dirty restrooms.
“Was the decision not to compensate drivers illegal? Probably. Was it unethical? Definitely,” APS bus driver told administrators and board members during Monday’s meeting.
Bus drivers were called in a week earlier than normal to undergo training and to prepare for new bus schedules. In a previous interview, an APS administrator told Channel 2’s Rachel Stockman that to compensate the drivers for the five days, they will receive five days off during the school year. Bus drivers are not satisfied, and say the issues go beyond compensation, and include issues with management, and lack of response to concerns with students misbehaving on the bus.
“One of our bus drivers went two weeks without a radio after writing it up repeatedly,” Smith told board member. Smith also said he notified a principal of bullying on the bus, and it has also gone unaddressed.
“We are talking about giving you some clean toilets, we are talking about making sure they pay you for the work you do,” said Alan Lee, deputy director of the Southern Region of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Quentin Hutchins has been an APS bus driver for 16 years. He said he worries about student safety with bus drivers so distracted.
“Parents entrust us with their children, and this is something that we should not have to dwell on,” Hutchins said.
When asked about the driver’s pay concerns, Associate Superintendent Steve Smith told Stockman, “The issue that you ask about remains an issue between labor and management we will treat it as such, so it would be inappropriate to provide any further comment.”
“This is not just a job for me, this is my life,” one bus driver said.
Here is a statement that APS sent to Channel 2 Action News for a previous story related to bus driver compensation:
Our transportation department has a strong team working to ensure the safe delivery of students to and from school. Bus drivers' and monitors' are 190-day employees and their salaries are prorated, as are teachers' salaries. To plan for the new school year, APS bus drivers and monitors reported for duty on July 24, five days earlier than originally scheduled, which allowed adequate time for practice and assessments of bus routes. In addition, professional learning days are planned throughout the school year for teachers. Bus drivers and monitors, who would normally work these days, will not have to report for duty on five of the professional learning days, thereby making up for the earlier report date. At a special legislative session in June, the board approved the amended calendar, which continues to reflect full compensation for all 190-day employees.