Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Focus groups yield more concerns about Hillsborough school buses

TAMPA — The statements echo what school bus employees have said at public meetings. They're about shabby repair shops, moldy buses, long hours stranded on roadsides and labor relations rife with suspicion.

In advance of a Hillsborough County School Board workshop Wednesday, the district posted notes from 27 focus groups that drew more than 600 workers.

"Some mechanics work under tarps and on the bare ground with poor lighting and subject to the weather," the report says.

Four pages later: "Parents are running transportation, not us."

There are relatively few complaints about exceptional student education, or ESE, an issue in the spotlight since the death of a child in 2012 after a bus ride.

But the employees said that while ESE driver training has improved, it takes too long, it should be extended to office staff, and all drivers should get the training because they often fill in for one another.

Complaints about communication were frequent — a major problem, as the buses are among the oldest in the state and break down often. Employees said when they call dispatch, assuming their radios work, they are told, "Drivers, be patient. I am the only one here."

Low wages were mentioned at every session, and drivers said repair work is substandard.

"Many drivers reported long waits for towing, some up to six hours, only to be told that they could not ride back in the tow truck and were on their own to find a way back to the compound or field office," the report said.

The sessions, conducted by the Business Process Improvement team, began March 3, shortly after four trainers wrote a memo that complained about safety and personnel issues.

Superintendent MaryEllen Elia held her own employee meetings last week. "Now the challenge is to put together a tentative plan for Wednesday and then an overall plan for the board," spokesman Stephen Hegarty said.

Already, officials heard from a consultant that they are in dire need of new buses and better repair facilities. Board members also fielded more than 100 complaints from employees at town hall meetings.

"When you look at all the data points, there's obviously a need to significantly transform the transportation division," member Cindy Stuart said.

Member April Griffin, who organized most of the town hall meetings, said, "I think it's good that we have listened to people. And now I'm really ready to just come up with solutions."

Focus groups yield more concerns about Hillsborough school buses 05/09/14 [Last modified: Friday, May 9, 2014 10:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Editorial: The unknown price tags in the mayor's race

    Editorials

    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has been busy promoting all sorts initiatives in the months leading up to the Nov. 7 election, doubling down on his progressive agenda without spending much money or generating much controversy. But make no mistake, the cost will come due after the election. Without a change in …

    The mayor is determined to get artist Janet Echelman to create a sculpture for the new Pier. But the cost would be much higher than what is allocated. Above is Echelman’s As If It Were Already Here in Boston.
  2. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  3. Judge won't cut prison term of man who pleads obesity

    Criminal

    TAMPA — A claim of obesity won't shave time off a Tampa man's prison sentence.

    Duane Crithfield and Stephen Donaldson Sr. were sentenced to prison after marketing a fraudulent offshore tax strategy known as a "Business Protection Plan" to medical practices, offering doctors and others coverage against unlikely events such as a kidnapping.
  4. Advocates for charter, public schools argue their cases at education forum

    K12

    TAMPA — Advocates of charter schools argued for diversity in education while supporters of traditional public schools charged that state funding is stacked against them during a forum Friday titled "Choices in Education."

    Schools such as Winthrop Charter School deserve greater public support, their operators say, because they offer a choice in education that is popular among parents. Public school advocates say charter and voucher schools represent a double standard in accountability and enrollment. [WILL VRAGOVIC  |  Times]
  5. Editorial: UF shows how to preserve free speech

    Editorials

    The University of Florida was forced to navigate a treacherous terrain of constitutional concerns and public safety this week, all in a glaring public spotlight. In the end, Thursday's appearance by Richard Spencer was a success — as much as an unwelcome visit from a notorious white nationalist can be. The …