Board hires former bus manager as consultant - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Board hires former bus manager as consultant

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January 14, 2008

Albany - - Dougherty County School bus drivers say they're still not satisfied with how the bus system is ran. Last year, several bus drivers walked out for a day. Since then, the school board has met with them to try to work out some of the concerns. Monday, the board made a decision that some fear will only make things worse.

This is Mary Richardson's 25th year as a bus driver.

"Right now its worse than I've ever seen it."

So she's serving as the President of the local drivers union to make changes. This month, the union wrote a letter to school superintendent Sally Whatley addressing a number of concerns, including poor management and bus safety.

Last month, one driver says he was attacked trying to break up a fight.

"He called for help. He really wanted security to come and there were a lot of questions asked. Then they told him to go and see if he could separate it," Richardson explains.

He did and the next day found out he broke his hand as a result. Workers comp has been denied and the board hasn't decided whether to help with the emergency room bill.

"One reason it's not running smoothly is because of leadership," Richardson says about the bus system.

Monday, the board voted four to three to hire Rick Wheeler to serve as a consultant. But members James Bush, Willie Weaver and Dave Maschke voted against it. Wheeler just retired as Fleet Manager with the Bus system back in November.

"Give a grace period. Maybe six months or so," Bush says.

Maschke says many of the problems with the bus system didn't happen overnight and Bush adds a lack of good leadership in the past has resulted in the current situation.

"I could not in good conscious vote for someone who is part of the problem," he said.

Now drivers like Richardson feel nothing will change at all.

"Pretty bad shape right now," she says. 

And many bus drivers who showed up approached Board Chair Mike Wyndom pleading to make more beneficial changes. 

"It's all about favoritism," one driver said.

The Board has a transportation committee charged with addressing the drivers' concerns. The three members of that committee voted against hiring the consultant but were outnumbered. They say they'll continue to try to help the drivers.

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