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Wake Bus Drivers Protesting, Even Though New...

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RALEIGH — Wake County's school buswoes are far from over, despite the fact that buses were rolling beforedawn Tuesday. After a Tuesday morning meeting between drivers and schooladministrators, it was apparent that some hard feelings remain, along withthe threat of yet another sick-out. 

Many drivers called in sick Monday afternoon with what some refer toas "yellow flu", a reference to the color of county buses. A full fledgedstrike had been threatened earlier, when veteran drivers took issue witha county proposal to pay newly recruited drivers more than some of themwere making after years on the job. 

Wake County has been experiencing a shortage of school bus drivers andsome veterans have done extra work to keep the buses rolling. The Tuesdaymeeting took place in a school parking lot between disgruntled driversand school transportation director Dr. Wyatt Harper. He says he calledthe meeting hoping to put some of the angry feelings to rest and motivatedrivers to return to work. Monday, Harper and other administrators hadscrapped a controversial plan to recruit new drivers with a $10 per hourstarting wage. 

WRAL-TV5's Education ReporterYvonneSimonssays it doesn't look as if that happened. The meeting seemedvery unorganized with voices raising and emotions flaring. 

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Driver Kim Pearce says she didn't thing that kind of meeting was goingto accomplish much. Neither side, she said, presented any sense of order. 

 

The general consensus, according to Simons, among the approximately300 drivers who were at the Tuesday morning meeting was that they wouldcontinue to drive until an October 8 school board meeting takes place.There, some said, they plan to pressure the board for higher wages. 

Most said they planned to drive Tuesday afternoon, although there werea few from Wake Forest-Rolesville, Fuquay-Varina and East Wake who saidthey would be calling in sick again. But the majority of drivers at themeeting were concerned about the welfare of their young passengers. 

The wise parents, says Simons, will have an alternative plan for theirchildren's after-school transportation in case it becomes necessary. 

It was Harper, not the school board, who decided to offer the $10 hiringwage that started all the controversy. He planned to use money in an emergencyfund in an attempt to alleviate the driver shortage. 

Most drivers were satisfied when that offer was rescinded, but for manyit simply opened up a topic that couldn't be ignored. 

  

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