By Shelby Stewart
On Monday night by a 5-2 vote the Brandon Board of Education Ok’d outsourcing the school bus drivers.
Diane Salter, president, Bob Eisminger, vice president, Marianne Dwyer, secretary and trustees Lisa Kavalhuna and John Chartier voted in favor of outsourcing while trustee Kevin McClellan and treasurer Debbie Brady voted against it.
“This was a very difficult decision for our board of education,” said Matt Outlaw, district superintendent.
“While the financial aspects of the discussion favored the change, this decision was about more than money. We have been blessed with a transportation department that has faithfully served this community for many years. While the change would not hurt department members financially, it is still a big change for our employees.”
The district has been discussing the possibility of outsourcing since January, and parents in the community have been outspoken about their opinion of outsourcing being a bad idea.
“I don’t think this is the right move for our district,” said Brady, district trustee. “We privatized the custodians and I get complaints that our buildings are dirty, we’ve had to pay DM Burr more money to get people in here, I don’t think it’s the right move.”
Local support was evident, said Outlaw.
“The district serves more than 2,600 students with more than 4,000 parents,” he said. “While there are some parents that are more vocal than others, many parents support the option of outsourcing to a transportation company (First Student) instead of outsourcing to a payroll company (EduStaff).”
First Student will offer the driver and mechanic positions to the current Brandon employees, and all who have benefits will keep them. In addition, they would receive pay raises, a signing bonus, free training and more.
“The ripple effect of passing on $300,000 or more of savings annually was difficult to overlook. Its impact on items such as teacher recruiting/retention efforts and investment in programs and opportunities for students loomed large,” said Outlaw. “We have to use our limited resources wisely, which means difficult decisions are sometimes necessary to best serve our students.”
It is unclear how many drivers will stay with the district, but Outlaw hopes that all those currently employed will stay with Brandon.
“The district is hopeful to retain as many of our current drivers as possible. The district worked hard through negotiations with First Student to ensure that everyone received a pay increase, that benefits were preserved for those that have them, that retention bonuses were in place and more,” said Outlaw. “While we were going to have new faces on buses in the fall no matter the board’s decision, having as many familiar faces as possible is best for our students and families.”
A representative for the bus drivers had no comment as of press time.