(SAVANNAH) Scores of transportation workers with the Savannah Chatham Public School System rally at the School Board’s headquarters on Bull Street to take a stand against a district takeover of the bus system. Numbering nearly 100, they chanted in one voice: School board…slow your roll! That rally cry aims to get the board to reconsider their plan to operate the bus system in the next school year. More than 90 mechanics, monitors, crossing guards, and bus drivers, like Jacklyn Williams say they are fighting to keep collective bargaining. Williams says she’s been driving a school bus for 12 years and a county takeover puts the brakes on their representation by Teamster’s Local 728. ” The union is out the door if the school board takes over, so we will not have Teamsters to represent us when the board takes over.” said Williams.
The leader of the union representing transportation workers for Chatham County schools says there is no reason for the school board to take the wheel of student bus service. Randy Brown says transportation in the Coastal Empire’s largest public school system has been outsourced for years. ” There’s many professional companies out there. the county can go through this process and they can choose. they’ve done it before, but to say that no one wants to deliver school children in Chatham County, is not correct.” Brown said. Williams says salaries are another major concern. ” With the school board taking over, the fear is how we are going to get paid and the amount of money we’re going to get paid per hour.” said Williams.
Vanessa Miller-Kaigler, the Facilities Management Executive Director, the division of the school board in Chatham County that will oversee school bus service, says the board already works with a number of unions, including one representing teachers, so she see’s no reason why they can not work with the Bus Driver’s union. Kaigler says the board is in the process of preparing to accept applications for transportation workers. She compares the change to the transition from one private provider to the next, like the move from First Student to Reliant Transportation last year. Kaigler says salaries will be addressed on an individual basis with each new hire. ” All salaries for successful candidates will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, um we’ll do our level best to match salaries within reason, we are a public agency with guidelines we have to adhere to.” Kaigler said.
There are informational meetings planned, one at New Hampstead High School Monday evening. Another meeting is set at Savannah High School Tuesday morning at 11:00am. Kaigler says once the application process begins, those hoping to be hired will be given ample opportunity to do so. The Savannah Chatham Public School System is set to take over bus service in the 2016 – 2017 school year. Williams says while there is some fear, she is hopeful. ” I hope that we are treated fairly, our pay does not change, and our pay goes up… and I pray that it works out.” Williams said.