Richmond County school bus drivers air grievances

By: Melissa Tune Email
By: Melissa Tune Email

AUGUSTA, Ga.---Bus drivers in Richmond County are hoping for more pay and buses in better running condition. They protested tonight at the Richmond County Board of Education meeting.

Drivers spoke out because they say they're hoping to prevent the problems they have already from getting worse.

"We're short because the people are leaving," driver Sallie Thomas told News 12.

Thomas showed us a list of about 15 Richmond County bus drivers who have resigned from the school system in the last month alone.

"We're not going to be able to haul the kids, we barely can haul them now," she said.

Thomas says many of them have quit because of dozens of ongoing issues and because the Richmond County school board has ignored their concerns.

"Quit, because she was made to drive her bus after having a wreck, which was a safety issue," Thomas said. "Should never have been made to drive that bus. She asked for help from the transportation director but was made to drive the bus anyway."

"Please, please, do something about transportation," she said to the board, asking for a pay raise for all transportation workers. Money wasn't the only concern. Mechanical and safety issues, drivers pulling double shifts, and substitute driver problems were all brought to the board's attention.

Drivers from Columbia County and others came to support them.

"That doesn't make sense," said union supporter Ben Morgan, "if you are going to trust them with the job of getting them back and forth to school safely but yet ignore them when they start talking about problems with the buses and being pressured to do things that are not safe."

"We are a mother, father, psychiatrist, nurse, caregiver," said Columbia County bus driver Pamela Sullivent.

Some parents and teachers are backing the drivers. They say they're hoping the board will listen and make changes that are necessary.

"I'm in support of them," said Freedom Park Elementary teacher and parent Amy Hillman. "They get our children to school."

"Richmond County has trained the best of the best drivers, and it's time that they make sure that they get their fair share," she went on. "Our bus drivers now have let the board know there are serious concerns, and now its time that we as an entire community step up and show our concern."

"A school bus driver is a whole lot," Morgan said. "That's a major responsibility. Something go wrong, they're looking at that school bus driver. But yet when that bus driver brings an issue forward, they want to ignore them."

"This year, we got your kids to school on time," Thomas said. "We got your kids to school when you didn't have enough drivers. It's us disgruntled drivers, we did it for you."

"Don't let this keep going on, because, see, you going to stress out the drivers so bad until somebody's going to get hurt," she said. "And last time I said that we had two wrecks the next day, so I' m praying to God that we don't have that tomorrow."

According to Thomas, there is a meeting scheduled on May 23 with BOE members Venus Cain and Alex Howard to discuss their grievances.

In all fairness, we were not able to get the board members' side tonight because they were in session, but we will continue to follow this story and make sure that the board's side is told.


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