Bus driver complaints continue in Hillsborough
More than 50 transportation employees of the Hillsborough County school district turned out Monday evening for a meeting in Apollo Beach that this time included four School Board members.
Candy Olson, whose district includes Apollo Beach, listened and acknowledged that the drivers have not always been served by innovations called for in a 2007 reorganization. And she said she regrets that the district didn't move sooner to buy buses.
Member April Griffin, meanwhile, said chairwoman Carol Kurdell was using "a scare tactic" when she suggested the district consider privatizing the transportation system. Some drivers are expected to protest the idea at the next 3 p.m. board meeting on April 29, and Griffin cautioned them to finish their work day. There will be time at the end of the meeting for their comments, she said.
Superintendent MaryEllen Elia has promised a comprehensive action plan that will pull together the work of a paid consultant, district-led focus groups and multiple investigations stemming from a January memo by four transportation trainers.
As in past meetings, the bus drivers described poor conditions on their buses, low morale and practices they consider unsafe, such as having special needs children dropped off at bus stops instead of their homes. Also as in past meetings, there was no one to rebut their claims. Much of their dissatisfaction was directed at transportation chief John Franklin.
The Tampa Bay Times reported recently that Hillsborough has one of the oldest bus fleets in the state, and a maintenance supervisor quit recently, saying it was too hard to supervise the mechanics.
"We all know our buses are junk," driver Lisa Nelson said. But she said the mechanics are not to blame, as the morale problems extend to their department too.