Parents, teachers, and union bus drivers and monitors wear picket signs outside Northeastern Clinton Central School board meeting Oct. 4.
Civil Service Employees Association drivers from the Northeastern Clinton, Beekmantown, Peru and Chazy central school districts, among others, stood outside the NCCS building Oct. 4 wearing signs asking for the school board to keep school bus drivers local.
Standing alongside the drivers were parents, students, and taxpayers alike all asking the board of education to vote against bringing in a private company to take over school bus routes.
The school board and a subcommittee met last week with First Student, a private bus company based out of Cincinnati, Ohio, to receive a free cost analysis.
“It’s a slow process; there is nothing that is going to happen immediately,” NCCS Superintendent Peter Turner said. “We’re nowhere near a price; they explained the services that they offer but it’s going to take a couple of months to estimate what the potential savings might be.”
Residents and employees worry this change could cost about 50 bus driver, mechanical and bus monitor positions and leave the district with no bus fleet.
“We do not want out kids driven by a contract company and we have a petition signed by 374 people that agree with us,” said Emy L. Pombrio, staff lawyer for the union.
According to school board president Daniel Letourneau, the board has been weighing its options to prevent a deficit in the school budget with the 2 percent tax cap.
“The board has not agreed to fire bus drivers or sell our fleet,” Letourneau said. “But, we all agree it is our responsibility to talk to the company about how much it would cost if we went that way so we can compare to our present spending.”
Turner said the three most significant factors that made the board want to look at current spending and possible areas to save is the rising cost of health insurance, retirement, and wages being paid for the part-time employment of the bus drivers.
“There are parents, drivers from both NCCS schools and other CSEA drivers from Chazy, Saranac, Peru, Ellenburg, and Beekmantown all here to show their support for one another because if this passes what will stop other schools from doing the same thing,” said NCCS bus driver Sue Bezio.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, several members of the community, stood before the board all expressing negative feelings about the possible change.
“As a taxpayer, I have to ask the board, why didnt you speak to union representatives to try to find a solution,” resident and wife of a CSEA driver, Maureen Booster, said.
“We are the taxpayers we want the best solution to save money, too, but if you outsource almost 50 jobs from this community, it will only lead to more home foreclosures and more people leaving the community. I don’t believe Champlain can afford anyone else out of work.”
Debbie Tourville, mother of a student at NCCS, stood out to support a bus driver who has helped her and her son, Trevor, since he first started going to school.
“My son is disabled like I am, and he has a lot of problems with change,” Tourville said. “But, my son has had the same wonderful woman pick him up and drop him off everyday since he first started going to school. She has helped him when he was upset and has always been there for him and I. I worry if this passes and there is some stranger driving him every other day how he will be able to handle that.”