…your board decided to privatize bus service?
The Cerridwen County school bus drivers were mad. They were so mad, in fact, that all 120 of them crowded into the meeting room at the board’s monthly meeting to tell the members exactly what they thought of the board’s plan to privatize the district’s transportation service.
“We had to reapply for our jobs,” they complained. “Some of us have been with the district for 15 years. It’s an insult to us.”
The Cerridwen School Board decided the year before to hire Astarte Transportation Services to run the transportation department because the district’s fleet of buses was growing along with its enrollment and bus routes. Board members asked the superintendent to study the idea with an eye toward keeping costs down and increasing efficiency.
The superintendent came back with three reputable transportation companies, and the board chose the one with the best track record – Astarte. Company officials told the board that they would probably make some personnel changes and other adjustments.
The district’s bus drivers weren’t unionized, and they didn’t have an association. Nevertheless, some drivers were full-time employees, had been with the district for many years, and were making an above-average salary.
When Astarte told the drivers they’d have to reapply for their jobs, the longtime drivers felt they were being targeted. Making matters worse was a rumor circulating that the company intended to save money by getting rid of the older drivers and hiring cheaper, less-experienced workers.
Some board members tried to calm their employees’ fears when confronted at the meeting. Other members weren’t so sure.
“After all, we did hire Astarte to save money,” said Julie Hera. “We shouldn’t tell them how to run their company.”
If you were on the Cerridwen School Board, what would you do?
A. Fire the company and resume management of district transportation.
B. Change companies.
C. Ask Astarte to honor your requests on personnel.
See our answer:
Our Answer: C. As you probably already know, good bus drivers are hard to find. If you’re concerned about holding on to them, you should mention this to your management company. A good management company will honor your requests, but it will no doubt remind you that salaries are a huge expense and a natural place to cut when budgets are tight. You can and should let a company know what your wishes are. Also, you can tell your drivers they would get priority if they applied for other job openings in the district for which they are qualified.
Advisor columns are reprinted courtesy of American School Board Journal, published by the National School Boards Association. The Advisor does not represent official policy of NSBA or NJSBA, nor should it be construed as legal advice.