Valdosta City Schools responds after bus drivers protest

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
February 20, 2018

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- Valdosta City Schools has responded to a request for comment after school bus drivers gathered in protest on Monday.

The school district said in a statement on Tuesday:

"Every employee in Valdosta City Schools is valued and appreciated and it is our hope that they each know there is an open door policy anytime they feel the need to be heard. The superintendent and deputy superintendent have scheduled a meeting with the bus drivers of Valdosta City Schools. Together they will have open dialogue and hopefully come to a resolution suitable for everyone involved."

During the protest, the bus drivers spoke out against what they called a "hostile work environment."

By: Noelani Mathews | WCTV Eyewitness News
February 19, 2018

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- Monday, a large crowd of bus drivers with Valdosta City Schools gathered in protest.

They say it's their first step towards change. A change that's long overdue.

"They're not just bus drivers," says State Rep. Dexter Sharper (D - Valdosta), speaking at the protest.

The voices of Valdosta school transportation filling Saunders Park is proof their no longer staying quiet.

"This is about respect," says Rep. Sharper.

They say after years of reaching out to chain of command about work load, pay, and management, they still remain unheard.

"Be our leader, be our voice, and please, lead with integrity," says Carlton Johnson, a VCS bus driver.

He says they want better pay than their current base salary of $9,200.

However, first and foremost, they demand better treatment in the workplace.

"You're not going to put a band-aid on this. You can't buy me," says Johnson.

"If this issue doesn't get resolved, you're going to have people that might not show up and honestly, I don't blame them," says Rep. Sharper.

The drivers have agreed to continue work for the sake of the kids and fellow bus drivers until demands are met.

"I love what I do," says Johnson. "The drivers love what they do, and that's why we're going to show up tomorrow."

We've reached out to Valdosta City Schools. They say because it's a school holiday and offices are closed, they don't have enough information to comment on the situation.

By: Noelani Mathews | WCTV Eyewitness News
February 18, 2018

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- Driving a school bus is a relentless job that can be overlooked and misjudged, according to several drivers with Valdosta City Schools.

However, they say they're no longer staying quiet about their struggle.

"A lot of people won't do anything until they see you do it first," says Rev. Floyd Rose, a local activist joining the drivers.

Sunday, the many faces of Valdosta's school transportation are hiding from the camera, but speaking up.

"The worst situation you can have on any job is working in fear," says Georgia Rep. Dexter Sharper.

With the help of Rep. Sharper and Rev. Rose, the school bus drivers are ready to speak out and say they no longer want to work in fear.

"I know a lot of them didn't want to get to this point, but when enough is enough, that's it," says Rep. Sharper.

A long list of drivers are standing in solidarity. They say they're overworked and underpaid.

"A lot of them are overworked and underpaid for the simple fact that you have people not wanting to come to work because of the hostile environment," says Rep. Sharper. "The fear of being disrespected when they should be respected."

One of the issues they bring up is the pay.

Drivers say whether you've been there for decades, are assigned more stops and more schools, every driver makes the same.

They say that amounts to around $9,000 a year.

"What we call our guardian angels for our kids, I'm standing with them no matter what until we get this issue resolved," says Rep. Sharper.

They're now calling on the community for help.

Valdosta City School bus drivers plan to protest at Saunders Park on Monday at 1 p.m.

"Enough is enough and we hear you loud and clear," says Rep. Sharper to a table-full of local drivers.

The drivers are now stepping out of the shadows and taking action for change.

We reached out to Valdosta City Schools regarding the complaints. A spokesperson for the district said they do not have enough information on the matter to comment on the situation at this time, adding that district offices are closed today for the President's Day holiday.

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