The DeKalb County school district is disputing claims made by bus drivers in the district, saying the driver's benefits are among the 'best in the region.'
This comes after several of the district's bus drivers failed to show up for their regular shift on Thursday and Friday as part of a three-day 'sick-out.'
42 percent of the district's 908 bus drivers called in sick Wednesday night and Thursday morning, leaving countless students in the state's third largest school district stranded at the bus stop.
A total of 383 bus drivers did not show up for work, causing the school district's transportation officials to scramble to arrange for help from outside the school district. Drivers who showed up for work were asked to drive two routes to make sure children made it to school. Hundreds -- if not thousands -- of DeKalb County parents made other arrangements because of the driver shortage.
On Friday, 224 of the drivers, or just under 25 percent, continued the 'sick-out.' Some drivers who showed up for work were asked to drive double routes and the district was experiencing nearly one hour delays.
On Monday, the numbers were down significantly. Only 63 drivers or 6.9 percent of the district's drivers called out.
The drivers are taking part in an organized "sick-out" to protest the way they're treated by the school district. Some say they're frustrated with the school system and have several concerns including salaries, retirement, and healthcare benefits.
DeKalb County School Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green went before TV cameras Thursday morning with a message to the hundreds of school bus drivers participating in a "sick-out": "You put our children in harm's way, and it will not be tolerated."
Dr. Green also told CBS46 News that the drivers participating in the 'sick out' are violating Georgia law as it is illegal for public employees to strike.
"I heard a lot of older people complaining about retirement that's been working here for over 30 years, and they're only getting $200 out of retirement," said bus monitor Alanis Doleman, who did not participate in the protest.
The school district disputes the claim, saying drivers' employment benefits are among the best in the region. The district provided a detailed fact sheet on the matter early Monday morning.
In the fact sheet, the district detailed four highlights to back up their claim: DCSD bus drivers are the second-highest paid school bus drivers among their peers Metro Atlanta school districts, including those in Cobb County, Gwinnett County, Atlanta and Fulton County. DCSD bus drivers have received five cost-of-living pay raises since 2014. In 2014-15 drivers were moved from a 5 hour to 6 hour work day, which resulted in a 20 percent annual salary increase. They received a 5-percent raise in 2017. DCSD bus drivers receive benefits as part-time employees. Benefits include: health, dental, vision, disability plans, long term care, retirement, sick leave, personal leave and vacation leave. The district established a Transportation Leadership Academy to provide opportunities for upward mobility and career progression. District funds are utilized so drivers and monitors can obtain industry certifications.Read the entire fact sheet
DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Dr. Stephen Green met with more than 350 bus drivers last Monday where drivers shared those concerns. He met with them again on Thursday. A sub group meeting is scheduled for Thursday, April 26.
Green told reporters he is committed to addressing those concerns. However, continuing with the "sick-out" will not help their chances of reaching an agreement, he said.
CBS46 has learned that seven of the bus drivers were fired on Thursday. Dr. Green says it was because they organized the 'sick out.' No other firings have been reported.
"We started with those who were obviously, we have evidence that they were orchestrating or in many ways organizing this event, and that is illegal, and so we have taken the action and there will be other consequences depending on the length of time they're out, if they can't produce a doctor's excuse for that, etc," said Dr. Green.
DeKalb County Transportation managers reported the following regarding Thursday's sick-out: Region 1: shortage of 45 drivers Region 2: shortage of 67 drivers Region 3: shortage of 38 drivers Region 4: shortage of 78 drivers Region 5: shortage of 40 drivers Special Needs: shortage of 53 drivers Shuttle: shortage of 62 drivers Total: 383 drivers out District-wide: 42% (383 of 908)
Some bus drivers in the district are rallying behind their fired comrades by holding a press conference Thursday morning at 9:30 a.m. next to DeKalb County Schools Superintendent R. Stephen Green's office.
Stay with CBS46 as this story develops.
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