Valdosta parents worry about possible school bus driver strike

Valdosta parents worry about possible school bus driver strike
(Source: Raycom Media)
(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - Parents in Valdosta react to hearing of a possible school bus driver strike that could take place in days to come, for several reasons.

This comes just a day after Valdosta City School bus drivers held a rally against low wages and what they say is a lack of respect.

"I was told that they may be thinking about going on strike, and if they do that, then our children are going to be in a world of trouble," said one parent who did not want to be identified.

That mom said she will have no way to get her children to school, because depends on bus drivers, to not only transport her children, but also to look out for their best interest when out of her care.

"I don't know how I'll be able to get them there without it. It's very important..."

Another concerned parent spoke out after hearing that a school bus driver strike could be on the horizon.

"I think there should be some kind of resolution to it, because in the end, the children are going to be the ones who suffer.

Valdosta City School District bus drivers rallied together to speak out against what they call intolerable working conditions.  A parent who has two children who attend W. G. Nunn Elementary and Valdosta High says without the bus drivers, the kids won't have a way to school.

"It's a 100% help... I really don't have adequate transportation all the time, and it gets them back and forth to school."

This mother says her childrens' bus driver is more than a vehicle operator, she is invested in their well-being.

"They know these children personally, she knows how many children are supposed to be on at this stop and that stop, and these kids come to her if they are hurting.

Bus drivers have made it plain and clear that they feel they're are over-worked and underpaid.

"When a person's happy in their job, that's when they're going to do their best and if you feel like you're being done wrong on your job, you may go to work, but you won't do your best or you may not even show up. You have to make people feel important."

The City School District superintendent plans to meet with drivers Wednesday morning.

"They need to sit down and have some type of resolution and listen to these drivers. They are dearly needed."

On Tuesday, the school district did release a statement in response to the complaints from the drivers:

"Every employee in Valdosta City Schools is valued and appreciated and it is our hope that they each know there is an open door policy anytime they feel the need to be heard."

Valdosta City School bus drivers marched into the board of education office this morning with their heads held high, with two demands--compensation for extra routes worked and the removal of their current supervisor.

Retired bus driver Gwendolyn Nelson says enough, is enough.

"They pay UPS $70,000 to take boxes and they won't pay us $10,000 to take their most precious cargo," exclaimed Nelson.

Drivers met with Superintendent William Cason and his deputy superintendent to discuss issues resembling what they are calling a hostile work environment.

"Every person, every driver that shared their concerns, they were well respected and well received," Bus Driver Carlton Johnson.

But no final decisions were made today.

Cason stated that the ultimate decision lies in the hands of the board of education members--who are set to vote two days from now.

"Decisons have to be made based on evidence and based on listening to both sides and trying to determine what's the best decision for the district," explained Cason.

Bus drivers said that although today's meeting went well, they will not be satisfied until Friday's vote has passed in their favor.

WALB asked if driver felt like this lifted a burden this far, in which the response was no.

"No. No. No. We are still in the fire and we are waiting for results and staying focused," said Johnson.

The Board of Education took no action today, and the bus drivers say they will continue to work until they do.

The drivers still say however these issues could lead to a strike by school bus drivers.

Reason for the delay was the requests were not action items on the agenda.

So, drivers will have to wait until an official board meeting is schedule to possibly find out the verdict.

Two bus drivers were allowed to speak to the board of education on behalf of all drivers, about their pay and removal of their director.

Two spoke in favor, no one spoke against.

Bus Driver Nazier Vazquez was one of those two.

"I work tirelessly. There have been days were I have driven three elementary routes, two middle school routes and two high school routes and I don't even get a thank you. I don't do it for the thank yous, but the fact of the matter is--respect is due unto it all," said Vazquez.

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