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District Prepares for Strike, Asks Community for Help

Superintendent Joe Pye says school bus driver strike would likely 'cripple' district in first day.

If a school bus driver strike occurs, be prepared for at least a day of no bus transportation for students. Parents should begin thinking of alternative ways of getting their children to school, officials said.

Only special education students will have bus services should a strike happen, district officials said.

Dorchester County School District Two Superintendent Joe Pye met with reporters Friday afternoon. He said that as he's learned more about the negotiations between Durham School Services and its unionized employees, he has seen a higher probability of a strike occuring.

"I have no way of knowing it's going to happen and, matter of fact, I've been in denial. As the day has gone on, now I'm hearing 'Well, anything is possible,'" Pye said. Pye said a strike with zero notice is a possibility and it would "cripple" the district. 

Dorchester Two bus drivers authorized a strike this week. There is no timeline for a strike, adding to the district's preparation woes. 

Pye asked the community to coalesce and offer support to the district — whether by signing up to be a bus driver or by helping drive neighbor's children to school. The ad for Durham and the district seeking bus drivers is attached to this story. 

Charleston County School District has faced the same issue and its leadership addressed the press Friday too.  

On Monday, school teachers have been asked to come in an hour ahead of schedule. Pye said he's been in talks with law enforcement agencies to be ready for increased crossing guards and possibly keeping student resource officers for longer hours.

While the threat of the strike has cost many manhours, Pye said the district hasn't had to shell out any cash just yet. He added that any cost incurred by the district will be paid for by Durham. 

Information from the state Board of Education has said the strike could happen as soon as Monday, but the Teamsters 509 union has not confirmed any time frame.

Pye likened the strike to a hurricane, something familiar to this coastal region. 

"The storm is out there and we've got to be protected should it come here," Pye said. He added that Durham is gathering its out-of-state employees to be ready to drive buses, as allowed by the state Board of Education earlier this week, but that will take time. His petition to neighboring districts for their substitute drivers was met with little success due to high demands of districts and few employees, he said. 

Pye said he's not been privvy to the negotiations and expressed frustration that he has had little information from Durham.

"I keep browbeating them, 'Is this all you can say?' Pye said. "I want to know right now what's going on."

Dorchester Two began contracting with Durham in June 2011 and this is the first hiccup with the contractor. Pye said they will reevaluate the contract with Durham in June, and that outcome will depend on what happens in negotiations and if there is a strike. 

"We (contracted out transportation) so we could focus on education but on days like today, I'm a control freak and I'd like to be in control," Pye said. "It's situation but certainly at the end of the (fiscal) year when we negotiate our contract I would want to know what's the likelihood of this happening again, what would be the plans. And I would expect to have a lot of questions."

According to a statement by Teamsters 509, negotiations continued Friday. 

maizenbluedoc January 26, 2013 at 05:05 PM
Just another example where unions are only interested in themselves, not the general public. I suppose they don't understand why their numbers are declining annually. Maybe if they didn't take the mafia-type approach to negotiations (where there are actual negotations), something would be accomplished. From what I read, their primary grievance is "to be treated with respect". Maybe if they would be more specific about what they imply, the public would be more receptive to their demands.
stanley seigler January 26, 2013 at 06:14 PM
NOTE: following posted on another PATCH thread...we seem to around the same bush many times. the following: the vitriolic, union prejudicial, hype is misplaced...it should be directed at durham... it was/IS durham's resp to provide safe transportation...if the vitriolic hype is accurate they have NOT provided safe transportation...soo; terminate their contract (collect damages)...then the districts could hire the drivers used before it was decided to privatize... wait! arent the drivers before and after privatization one and the same...in any event... districts should demand durham get their act...provide professional, safe drivers at all time...including cover during strike...together. or get the heck out... get another contractor...or district direct hire as before GOP pushed privatization... the issues are NOT between the districts and the unions...it is between the districts and durham...and durham and the unions. BTW under district/durham contract: which party is responsible for added expense (damages) due to a possible strike...anyone know...anyone ask the districts???
reg January 26, 2013 at 07:59 PM
"not the general public" --- unsafe maintenance of the buses (leaving the kids subject to boarding buses that can breakdown or not operate correctly) and telling drivers to overlook basic operation standards (such as kids' exits and entries at particular traffic points and road conditions) *does* indicate interest in the general public.
Lindsay Street January 26, 2013 at 10:12 PM
The answer to your question: "While the threat of the strike has cost many manhours, Pye said the district hasn't had to shell out any cash just yet. He added that any cost incurred by the district will be paid for by Durham."
stanley seigler January 27, 2013 at 12:14 AM
re: any cost incurred by the district will be paid for by Durham thanks...any cost should include all damages...ie, collateral damage and that relative to what is called 'pain and suffering' in other legal cases... further the district should not have to be concerned with durham labor relations (actually lack thereof)...durham should provide for strike contingency...ie, have drivers (their administrative type,eg) ready to replace those on strike... tho not in agreement with privatizing most public/school related functions...perhaps it could remove the public officials (eg, school districts) from administrative details such as labor relations w/ drivers as in this case.

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