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Stow bus drivers remain concerned about the future of busing, receive no new answers

By Heather Beyer correspondent

STOW: Concerned bus drivers packed the Stow-Munroe Falls Board of Education meeting Tuesday evening in search of information related to the administration’s possible decision to outsource busing service.
The district sent a letter to the labor relations consultant with the Ohio Education Association last month indicating it was considering hiring a private company for the transportation of students beginning with the 2013-14 school year.
Although the board did not discuss the outsourcing proposal Tuesday night, a group of drivers voiced concern and displeasure with the school board.
“I have a big problem with what is going on here tonight,” driver Tom Luneke said. “I think this board needs to work together. This school system has got an ‘Excellent’ rating, and the rating is not from the board members, but from all of us, me included. I want to be led right, and I want you all to play by the rules.
“There has been a lot of discrepancy about what has been going on here,” Luneke said. “We need to all get on the same bus, the same wagon, the same deal and keep this school an excellent school system.”
The June 13 letter to the OEA says the board “intends to exercise its right ... to outsource its transportation services.” District officials say Ohio law allows the move for “reasons of economy and efficiency.”
“We want to make sure that all of our employees are kept whole as a result of this and that all of our employees be employed by whichever company that we choose,” Superintendent Russell Jones said in a written statement this month.
Jones said one of the stipulations of a potential deal is that compensation of current employees would remain whole, and they would have an opportunity “to be employed as drivers or in other positions in transportation that they currently hold within the company.”
Under Ohio law, a district is not required to bargain over such a decision as long as it is implemented after a contract expires or within 60 days of a contract expiration.
“The school districts are not required to bargain to outsource transportation,” Jones said. “They are required to bargain over the ‘effects’ of that decision. If we were to take this step, the employees would be employed by the company that would take over the transportation service.”
Jones said drivers “very likely” would remain with their routes with a new company.
Jean Crockett, another driver, said she has concerns about the board’s lack of transparency.
“Something is going on that they don’t want us to know,” she said. “I pray to God I’m wrong because I love this school system. I have a daughter going into the 10th grade ... I’m disappointed.”
Crockett said she moved to Stow from Arizona in hopes of getting away from “situations like these.”
“I hope I’m completely wrong because this is not what I expected by any means,” she said.