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.
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.