School board considers outsourcing North Caddo bus drivers - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Caddo school board considers outsourcing Vivian bus drivers

School board members say privatizing the rural transportation would save the district a reported $600,000.00. School board members say privatizing the rural transportation would save the district a reported $600,000.00.

The Caddo Parish School Board suggestion to outsource bus drivers in North Caddo Parish has sparked controversy. The plan was the hot topic at both the Caddo School Board budget meeting and a union meeting with Vivian bus drivers on Tuesday.

School board members say privatizing the rural transportation would save the district a reported $600,000.00. The idea was introduced at the last budget meeting and Tuesday night board members voted to review the idea in committee.

But with so many unanswered questions, Vivian bus driver Debra Stevens, isn't happy. "I love my kids, I look forward to seeing them in the morning," said Stevens, who every day for 14 years has driven a bus full of kids to and from school in Vivian.

But a school board cost cutting plan has Stevens and the other Vivian bus drivers worried. "My biggest fear is losing my job," she said. The plan calls for outsourcing the Vivian drivers to a private company. Caddo Schools Chief Financial Officer Jim Lee says that company wouldn't have to pay its drivers as high of retirement or benefits as the district would, in the end saving the school system money. "They'll probably be able to do this cheaper, than we'll be able to do it," said Lee.

"Are they going to get the same investment of people passionate about their jobs? Are they going to get the same quality? asked Shannon Sullivan, who works with the Red River United Union, who is against the proposal. The union is rallying Vivian's bus drivers to fight back against it. "They've got to understand the value of who you are, that's going to take you coming to the board and letting them hear from you," Red River United President Jackie Lansdale told the crowd of bus drivers.

But some board members like Steve Riall are already against the proposal, saying there are too many unanswered questions about the plan. "We don't want to take our long time employees up there and not take care of them," he said referring to

Vivian employees like Stevens, who hopes to continue driving her kids to school for many more years. "We need to speak up and let the school board know we are concerned about our jobs," she said.

Other district cuts and changes on the table right now include: a slight cut in elementary school positions, adding one student to the staffing formula in 4th and 5th grade and a change to a modified block schedule for high schoolers, which would cut 60 positions. They are also considering scaling back special education staffing. School board members say the majority of staffing reduction would be through attrition and not by firing employees.

The next budget meeting is set for Monday and a final vote will be made Tuesday.

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