Drivers Speak Out on Laidlaw Decision - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/07/06

Drivers Speak Out on Laidlaw Decision

Since the Savannah-Chatham County school board voted to end the contract with bus company Laidlaw, we've heard from the board, we've heard from the parents. But today we are hearing from the bus drivers.

Two days after the school board decision, the bus drivers are speaking out. They say they should have been consulted before the school board made such a big decision. WTOC was with the drivers this morning when they rallied against the decision. We spoke with several of them about how they feel and what they plan to do now that Laidlaw is out.

It was a busy morning for these drivers, not because they were picking up students, but because they were rallying against a decision that ultimately could affect their future. 

"We have rights and we have feelings, too, like the parents," said driver Joanne Brown.

And like many parents, these drivers are frustrated "It's not Laidlaw," said driver Marguerite Horton. "It's some of the drivers."

Superintendent Thomas Lockamy says he gave Laidlaw a second chance in January, but the district says the company didn't make the necessary changes to improve its service. And Lockamy had to make a decision--and make one fast.

Drivers like Sharilyn Dauthry say it was the wrong decision. "I challenge any parent, if they feel like they can do anything better than we can, they should come out here and apply."

Even though the fate of Laidlaw is uncertain, the drivers we spoke with say they like working for Laidlaw and would like to continue working for the company.

Mary Poncy has been driving a bus for the last 16 years and says the board should have asked the drivers what they think before giving the company the axe. "The board only gives us so much. That's why they won't take them back, cause it cost too much and who suffers? We do."

"Half of us are doing three or four routes at the same time," said driver Africa Payne. "And a lot of the bad drivers are doing unsafe acts and we are paying for it."

They are hoping they won't have to continue paying. They'd like to keep driving our children to school, whether it's with the school district or with some other bus company.

"I wish these parents could see what we have to deal with and the training we go through, day in and day out," said Michelle Stegner. "It's not an easy job and takes a lot of love of children to do this job."

The district's contract with Laidlaw ends June 30.

Reported by: Brooke Kelley, bkelley@wtoc.com

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