Make us your home page

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

  1. Record $417 million awarded in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer


    LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a hospitalized woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.

    A bottle of Johnson's baby powder is displayed. On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman confirmed that a jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in a case to a woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene. [Associated Press]
  2. Search under way for missing sailors; Navy chief orders inquiry


    SINGAPORE — The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    Damage is visible as the USS John S. McCain steers toward Singapore’s naval base on Monday.
  3. Told not to look, Donald Trump looks at the solar eclipse


    Of course he looked.

    Monday's solar eclipse — life-giving, eye-threatening, ostensibly apolitical — summoned the nation's First Viewer to the Truman Balcony of the White House around 2:38 p.m. Eastern time.

    The executive metaphor came quickly.

    President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump view the solar eclipse from the Truman balcony of the White House, in Washington, Aug. 21, 2017. [Al Drago | New York Times]
  4. Secret Service says it will run out of money to protect Trump and his family Sept. 30


    WASHINGTON — The Secret Service said Monday that it has enough money to cover the cost of protecting President Donald Trump and his family through the end of September, but after that the agency will hit a federally mandated cap on salaries and overtime unless Congress intervenes.

    Secret service agents walk with President Donald Trump after a ceremony to welcome the 2016 NCAA Football National Champions the Clemson Tigers on the South Lawn of the White House on June 12, 2017. [Olivier Douliery | Sipa USA via TNS]
  5. After fraught debate, Trump to disclose new Afghanistan plan


    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will unveil his updated Afghanistan policy Monday night in a rare, prime-time address to a nation that broadly shares his pessimism about American involvement in the 16-year conflict. Although he may send a few thousand more troops, there are no signs of a major shift in …

    U.S. soldiers patrol the perimeter of a weapons cache near the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2003. Sixteen years of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan have left the insurgents as strong as ever and the nation's future precarious. Facing a quagmire, President Donald Trump on Monday will outline his strategy for a country that has historically snared great powers and defied easy solutions.  [Associated Press (2003)]