After reading both of Barry Paschal's recent comments, "Splitting baby isn't very wise" and "Making nice on tough issue," I must agree with the fact that the board members should leave the school calendar and the educating of our children to the people who know best, and that is the teachers.
However, I find it confusing that when the school bus drivers tried to inform the board members that transportation was not ready for a double track system, Paschal sided with the board members, stating the drivers were concerned about loss of pay.
Well, at the time Paschal sided with the board there was not one person that was in the department of transportation in an administrative position with any experience of driving a school bus, much less experience in driving routes in Columbia County, to be giving advice on changing the system. Paschal took the focus at the time away from the safety of the children and put it on drivers looking for a union to get more money.
I believe he called it a "freak accident," when in fact it was an accident waiting to happen. It was not the driver's fault. It was, however, the Transportation Department and the Board of Education's fault. They implemented a double-track bus system before they had the drivers to run it.
We were accused of using the situation to further our union purpose. Again the paper was wrong! We had been trying to get a union the year before because no one was listening to the drivers about a very important safety concern. We have been unionized for four years, and with every year that a driver stays with Columbia County they bring less money home. Their cost of living raises do not keep up with the cost of health care and so-called benefits that we pay for. So obviously we do not stay for the money.
The articles about the board have struck a nerve with me, and having been silent since the board members terminated me after nine years of school bus driving with an excellent record and no violations in my file, I feel it is time to make my stand. The board acted on a recommendation from our new director requesting mine and my sister's termination for violating policy something which we did not do. What I did was to speak out for the safety of the drivers and the safety of the children. What I did do is file grievances which stated that our new director was violating departmental policy and board policy.
This county is growing and transportation is not! The office staff is growing but not the drivers. The county is about to be in the same situation it was six years ago, which is not enough bus drivers to cover the growing county on a double track system. I hope we do not have any more "freak accidents."
We are, however, having drivers who are not fully trained operating our buses because of the shortage. These drivers are pressured to get their license as quick as possible so to keep the parents off the back of D.O.T. ...
I have filed a lawsuit for my unlawful termination. ...I hope I get to trial because only then will the citizens of Columbia County know exactly what goes on in transportation and how much is kept from them.
I guess the only thing me and Paschal agree on is that when it comes to making decisions about certain fields in the school system, then the board members need to be wise and take the advice of the people who have the experience and knowledge to know what they are talking about. As for me, I will fight the fight and I know that my parents will stand with me. ...
Sissy Hobbs, president, Transportation Workers Local 279
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