Frustrated bus drivers take day off, demand answers - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

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Frustrated bus drivers take day off, demand answers

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email

AMERICUS, GA (WTVM) -  Carlos Deriso's week got off to a rough start. He found himself scrambling to get his kids to school and himself to work Monday morning when their bus driver did not show up to pick them up.

"I had to get him to school. He was barely there on time. It was a hectic morning," he said.

Twenty of the county's 63 drivers did not go to work.

After hearing that the school board might slash bus drivers positions and not getting any answers from administrators, the drivers say they wanted to send a message.

"Above 20 drivers stayed out today to show them exactly how the system would run. At 10, they were still picking up children trying to get them to school when they should have been dropped off no later than 7:20 AM. Sumter County cannot afford to lose these drivers," said Jefforey Williams, a bus driver.

School superintendent Dr. Roy Brooks says Sumter County has found itself facing budget shortfalls like communities across the country. He says the school board is looking at cutting bus driver positions.

"We're looking at every single aspect of the organization. If we can find ways to become more operationally efficient and save the taxpayers money, money that we can redirect back to the schools, we're going to do it. The people that started this, they need a reality check because the reality is, we're going to save money in the district to help our students. Students are first," Dr. Brooks said.

Brooks would not say how the school district would be able to bus the same amount of students without a third of the drivers, only that the kids would continue to be transported safely.

"We want someone to tell us exactly what's going on. Are you removing 20 drivers? Will there be deep cuts in the system? Let us prepare. We need to make arrangements. We have households that we take care of. We're not just bus drivers. We're husbands, mothers. We have spouses to take care of," Williams added.

Parents we spoke to say even though the drivers put them in a bind, they respect what they're are trying to do and deserve to know what's going on with their livelihoods.

"They're trying to show them that they cannot fire 20 drivers and still run the entire county like they want. I honestly believe it's the right thing to do," Deriso said.

Brooks could not say when a decision will be made about the bus driver jobs but he tells WTVM administrators have conducted an audit and will be sharing the results of that audit "very soon."

The bus drivers say they plan to report to work on Tuesday but say the next time they stage something, even more drivers will call out.

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