DeKalb County school bus drivers have staged a three-day sick-out that began April 19 in an effort to get raises and better benefits. The district is working to make an agreement with the drivers, officials said at press conference.

Superintendent R. Stephen Green said at an April 19 press conference that the district was able to pull together enough bus drivers from other systems to bring students to school that morning, but there was a delay that caused scheduled testing to be pushed back. The district may also bring in a third party to help fill the absences from bus drivers calling in sick, he said.

The city of Decatur provided buses and drivers April 19, and the district is reaching out to other districts for help on the next two days, he said.

The district expects transporting students back home after school April 19 will go smoother in the morning, said Joshua Williams, the district’s chief operating officer, at the press conference. Parents will be notified if a delay of 30 minutes or an hour is expected, Williams said.

Green recommended parents, if they have the ability, drive their children to school on the coming days in case there is a delay.

Sheila Bennett, one of the bus driver’s leading the effort, said at the March 16 school board meeting, which is archived in video online, that the drivers deserve better raises and to be included in school district appreciation events that celebrate teachers and other staff.

“Why is it that drivers are eligible for food stamps when we carry the most precious cargo of all?” Bennett said at the meeting.

Green said that the district is working with the drivers to make an agreement, including by bringing in experts to review the drivers’ retirement plan. He also proposed bringing back awards for “bus driver of the year” and perfect attendance, he said.

He said the drivers’ pay is comparable or better than most other neighborhood school districts, except for Cobb County.

“The numbers don’t lie. The retirement plan may be another scenario, however,” he said.

The bus drivers who called in sick as part of the demonstration may be punished by the district, Green said.
A doctor’s note will be required for every day missed by bus drivers, he said.

“To those who opted not to come to work today—you have willingly put our students in harm’s way,” Green said.