For close to two months, more than 65 Middle Country Central School District bus drivers have expressed concerns over the district’s initial proposal to outsource bus drivers’ jobs to private bus companies.
At a recent board of education meeting March 27, district officials said they would be willing to work with the bus drivers and transportation department on the issue.
“We know you are concerned about the members of your department in light of the district’s request for proposal for vendor service options,” Karen Lessler, BOE president, said reading from a statement at the meeting. “We fully appreciate those concerns, and for that reason, we are willing to explore with the transportation department leadership whether we can make some meaningful changes in our operations that would enable us to continue to work together for the children of the district, and we hope to discuss that with you and the leadership in the coming days.”
The bus drivers, who are members of the Civil Service Employees Association, attended previous BOE meetings arguing that the proposal would be a mistake.
John Meyer, CSEA Middle Country school district transportation unit president, said that outside contractors don’t know the kids the way they do.
“We are not just bus drivers, we are like a parent, a friend and even a nurse to our kids,” he said at a BOE meeting March 13.
Angela McHale, a Middle Country school bus driver, argued outsourcing could lead to contracts with hidden costs.
“Extra expenses for field trips, special needs students and rising fuel costs could cost district the 10 to 20 percent more than what is budgetarily anticipated,” she said at the meeting.
Lessler said it is the board’s intent to reach out to leadership and begin to have some discussion regarding the inefficiencies of the department. The board president stated that it is not a targeting of the transportation department as the board looks at how every department can be more efficient and leaner due to the pressure of the tax cap.
“We certainly value the people that work in our district,” Lessler said. “At this time, we are opening that dialogue with the leadership of the department, with bus drivers, and hopefully, that will happen over the coming days, as time is of the essence for the both of us.”