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Bus drivers speak about concerns

During a Tuesday night meeting of the Charlotte County School Board, bus drivers in attendance voiced their concerns over the recent events within the Charlotte County Public Schools System.

Bus driver Denise Hall said, “It has come to our attention that as drivers of this county, many of our contracted salaries are in the same amount. This goes from new hires up to bus drivers with almost 20 years of service. Secondly, we have been told for an extended period of time that adding sick/personal days to our contract is being considered. As of yet, this has not been done and not been mentioned since the end of last year,” she said. 

Currently, a total of three sick/personal days are given each year with a 10-day accumulation limit. Larry Roller, who oversees the bus shop and maintenance, said “the drawback with that is, as you accumulate leave days, you’ve got to account for that in the budget for the upcoming school year.”

Hall provided each school board member with a list of neighboring counties and the number of allotted sick/personal days for bus drivers. According to Hall’s list, bus drivers in Mecklenburg County are given a total of nine sick days, one personal day and a 50-day accumulation limit. Lunenburg County bus drivers are provided eight sick days and no limit to the amount of days that can be accumulated from year to year.

“You have shown unappreciation and disrespect to what was one of the best transportation systems in this state,” said bus driver Linda Bowman. “You took away the driver’s health insurance and kept yours. You tried to demote our director of 13 years in order to force him to leave,” she said.

“Several drivers have already left. Others will be following because they are fed up with how we are unfairly treated,” said Bowman.

“I heard rumors that there’s a bus strike …,” said Brett Arbogast, school board member.  “I would hope … that before that situation comes up, we get this house filled with bus drivers. If it’s that serious, we need to do something,” he said.

“I would like to believe that they are (rumors),” said Superintendent Nancy Leonard. “I feel strongly we have a dedicated group of bus drivers that love children,” she said.

During the meeting, Roller made a recommendation to the school board to pay drivers an additional $72 a day if the driver did not utilize their sick/personal leave throughout the year. However, a maximum amount of 10 days must be accumulated first. In addition, Roller made the recommendation to raise the substitute bus driver salary from $59 to $72 a day, the same base salary of a contracted driver. Roller also recommended that drivers should be paid during inclement weather. A motion was made and approved on all three recommendations.