School bus drivers oppose transportation outsourcing

District seeks bids for subcontracting services, routes


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  • West Milford school bus drivers protest a proposal to outsource transportation services. They wore yellow T-shirts with the slogan, "This is how I roll."




  • A T-shirt wore by school bus drivers who oppose a proposal to outsource transportation services.



By PATRICIA KELLER

West Milford school bus drivers attended the Board of Education meeting Tuesday to protest a move to seek bids for subcontracting the district’s Transportation Department and/or particular school bus routes.

Drivers present at the meeting showed solidarity by wearing matching yellow T-shirts with a cartoon school bus that read “This is how I roll.”

School board trustees discussed looking into the cost savings for outsourcing the district’s transportation services in July. The issue was referred to the board’s Budget and Finance Committee.

The committee approved the idea last week, and the board is now actively seeking bid proposals.

School board President James Foody addressed bus drivers saying that rumors have been circulating around town that the district will be “getting rid of” the bus drivers.

“That’s not true," Foody said. "We’re seeking proposals; that’s all we’re doing. This board hasn’t made any decisions whatsoever.”

Foody added that he didn’t know if rumors were being spread to scare residents and parents, but he wanted to make it clear that the board hasn’t made any decision.

Resident Lorie Byro spoke in support of bus drivers and against outsourcing of services. She noted her family’s residency in town since 1959; her father a former business owner in the township that worked for the MUA of Wanaque and on wells and plumbing for the former Jungle Habitat. She, family members and her husband are alumni of West Milford schools. A member of the township's library staff, Byro said her family is deeply invested in the community and continues to remain active today. Byro's husband has been a school bus driver for five years, providing transportation for students with special needs.

“I think I understand much of the community of West Milford; I would like expenses to be cut in this town, but not off the backs of bus drivers and aides,” Byro said.

She said bus drivers should remain as employees of the Board of Education.

Bus drivers are dedicated to the community and genuinely care for students and their families, many of whom are their neighbors and friends, Byro added.

She said, as a paralegal, when altercations arose between bus drivers and the former transportation supervisor, she had many discussions with parents about the bus drivers, and, "without exception, parents were delighted with the passionate professionalism of these drivers.” She added, “If you want to know about students’ physical and mental health in the school system, you need to also speak to the drivers.”

The worth of the drivers and aides is “invaluable”, Byro remarked; “and they should be honored, not outsourced”. She said if that happens, “ultimately the taxpayers will suffer; immediately the children will suffer.”

Byro cited news reports involving subcontracted bus drivers being unlicensed, leaving students behind on buses, driving children without completing proper background checks, and the inability of some drivers to communicate with students and families due to language barriers.

She gave several examples of West Milford bus drivers going above and beyond to ensure the safety and security of the children in their care.

Following the receipt of bid proposals, BOE trustees will examine and discuss the results in committee. If any significant cost savings can be gained for the school district through the outsourcing of transportation services or bus routes, a recommendation will be made to the school board as a whole for discussion and vote on the matter as it is presented.

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