Wake Bus Drivers Protesting, Even Though New...
Posted September 30, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH — Wake County's school bus woes are far from over, despite the fact that buses were rolling before dawn Tuesday. After a Tuesday morning meeting between drivers and school administrators, it was apparent that some hard feelings remain, along with the threat of yet another sick-out.
Many drivers called in sick Monday afternoon with what some refer to as "yellow flu", a reference to the color of county buses. A full fledged strike had been threatened earlier, when veteran drivers took issue with a county proposal to pay newly recruited drivers more than some of them were making after years on the job.
Wake County has been experiencing a shortage of school bus drivers and some veterans have done extra work to keep the buses rolling. The Tuesday meeting took place in a school parking lot between disgruntled drivers and school transportation director Dr. Wyatt Harper. He says he called the meeting hoping to put some of the angry feelings to rest and motivate drivers to return to work. Monday, Harper and other administrators had scrapped a controversial plan to recruit new drivers with a $10 per hour starting wage.
WRAL-TV5's Education ReporterYvonne Simonssays it doesn't look as if that happened. The meeting seemed very unorganized with voices raising and emotions flaring.
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Driver Kim Pearce says she didn't thing that kind of meeting was going to accomplish much. Neither side, she said, presented any sense of order.
The general consensus, according to Simons, among the approximately 300 drivers who were at the Tuesday morning meeting was that they would continue 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 were a few from Wake Forest-Rolesville, Fuquay-Varina and East Wake who said they would be calling in sick again. But the majority of drivers at the meeting were concerned about the welfare of their young passengers.
The wise parents, says Simons, will have an alternative plan for their children's after-school transportation in case it becomes necessary.
It was Harper, not the school board, who decided to offer the $10 hiring wage that started all the controversy. He planned to use money in an emergency fund in an attempt to alleviate the driver shortage.
Most drivers were satisfied when that offer was rescinded, but for many it simply opened up a topic that couldn't be ignored.