Hillsborough County Schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia sat down for the first time with school bus drivers Tuesday, as she gathers the last pieces of information needed to finalize a new potential transportation plan.
During the meeting at East Bay High School, drivers voiced many of the same concerns they have at previous town hall-style meetings: an aging bus fleet, low morale and low pay.
"This is our opportunity to take the issues that have been raised in over 27 meetings across all of our transportation departments and to really problem solve," Elia said. "This is the first organized opportunity for them to come and speak with me about some of the issues that were raised and some of the solutions that we have."
This comes before a transportation consultant will present to the school board Wednesday morning the study he's been working on since February. You can read more on that by clicking on the following links.
LINK: School bus report I
LINK: School bus report II
Elia said she wants to hear possible solutions from drivers and other transportation department employees during five separate meetings.
"This is an opportunity for all of us to get together and fix it," she said.
Vincent Guagliardo, a bus driver for more than five years, said he's experienced problems this week: his bus broke down Monday and Tuesday.
"The students yesterday morning waited over 30 minutes for a bus to get there to get them into school," he said. "This is stuff that happens every day to multiple drivers."
Larry Jackson, who is finishing his first year as a bus driver, spoke out about compensation.
"We're doing a tough job, but then when I look at my salary, I'm saying something's not making sense here," Jackson said.
Elia plans to have a transportation plan to present to the board May 14. Drivers are hoping their voices during the last several weeks have made a difference.
"I'm taking a wait-and-see approach. If they're having all the meetings, the meetings are great but you have to do something about it," said Rodney Cribbs, a bus driver.
"I would like to see solutions tomorrow," added Guagliardo. "I know that's not going to happen, but hopefully by the start of next school year, hopefully we'll have a brand new leaf."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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