SCCPSS bus drivers call for change to payroll system

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 10:27 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2021 at 11:15 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Within a couple of weeks, school bells will be ringing for Savannah-Chatham County Public School students.

However, thousands of those students may not have transportation. That’s because of a bus driver and monitor shortage.

The district says they have 241 drivers for the upcoming school year, but last year they had close to 300. That leaves them with far fewer drivers than they need to transport all of the students who normally rely on the bus.

WTOC is hearing from bus drivers who’ve worked at the school district for years. The drivers we spoke with say they really feel for the parents and children who won’t have school-provided transportation.

You may remember bus drivers and monitors protested a few months ago for more PPE, higher wages, and changes to the payroll system. They told WTOC they’re grateful the district provided them with PPE and higher wages.

However, they say the payroll system hasn’t changed and it’s to blame for the driver and monitor shortage.

Changing the payroll system. It’s a problem SCCPSS bus drivers say they’ve been telling the district and school board about for years.

Bus driver and union steward Kendrick Banks says drivers love what they do, but some are considering leaving unless the system changes.

“I have experienced five drivers calling me crying on the phone because they want to stay at the school board. They want to stay driving, but they cannot do it,” said Banks who has been driving for six years and is a union steward.

Bus driver and union steward Deborah Daniels says drivers have been leaving over the years and many say they left because of how the payroll system works.

“If you make that overtime somewhere maybe the first seven days in the month. You may not see that until the first of the next month,” said Daniels.

Drivers and monitors were paid weekly through a contracted company before the school district took over. But now that they work for the district, officials say the employees are paid twice a month and overtime is paid two weeks later.

The union stewards say they’ve had multiple conversations with district officials about changing how they’re paid.

“Within a month when they see that they are not seeing their money on their paycheck. They leave. So they train people and they lose people. It’s an ongoing cycle,” said James Simpkins who has been driving for 15 years and is a union steward.

Now, the union stewards say it’s not only impacted them but also thousands of children and their families.

“Beautiful children, doing what they need to do to maintain, getting the special education pretty much and they’ve just been dropped on their head and that’s the devastating part to me because again we keep doing it because we love the kids,” said Daniels.

Banks also says if the district could pay the drivers and monitors more frequently that would help with keeping and recruiting drivers and monitors.

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