Bus drivers waiting for their fair share

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - Students at Blytheville Public Schools had a delay in bus transportation Tuesday after the bus drivers refused to take kids home.

According to Blytheville Public School Superintendent Richard Atwill, a misunderstanding around a recent bonus caused the delay after bus drivers demanded a pay increase.

After a delay, the buses did run on their routes and students were taken home.

The bus drivers said they care about the kids but wanted to bring attention to what they say is unfair.

"We love our job here for the Blytheville School District but they've singled us out before and we don't want to be singled out," bus driver Dezzie McKeever said. "We want our voice to be heard and we want our voice to be heard today."

McKeever has driven a bus in Blytheville for 12 years and said each driver got a note stating the Blytheville School Board approved a $300 bonus for all employees except bus drivers.

"And I know the state, the federal government gives money to the schools for each bonus, so I'm sure they've got it," McKeever said. "So we want our share."

McKeever said this is the first time in her career that bus drivers have been denied their annual bonus.

"We work hard every day getting those kids to school, getting them back home safely," McKeever said. "We work hard. We work four hours a day. Sure, we get paid, but being a bus driver you have to love the job."

Superintendent Atwill released the following statement to Region 8 News:

"Blytheville Public Schools had a delay in bus transportation for our students this afternoon. However, buses did run and students will continue to be safely transported here forward. There is some misunderstanding around a recent bonus and discussions to resolve the matter will go forward. I will update you upon resolution. Our students will be transported to and from school each day. We are blessed to have highly trained bus drivers who care for the children they serve."

McKeever said Superintendent Atwill agreed to meet with bus drivers on Wednesday to discuss the issue. She said so far, a reason for them not getting their bonus has not been given.

Wednesday morning Atwill met with several members of the bus driving staff at the administration building.

Acting PIO Allison Turner said the meeting was not open to the public as it was a personnel issue. No school board members were present.

Turner said she believes the district is on a path toward resolution after the meeting.

But the bus drivers said they are still waiting for their fair share.

"That's basically what we're saying," Jasmine Thomas said. "If you're going to do for one, you have to do for all."

"We're part of the operation," Robert Harris said. "Why don't we get it?"

I've been driving for six years and I've grown to love the kids," Sonya Lucas said. "That's why I'm still here."

Turner said she hopes everyone understands that the board, not Mr. Atwill, makes the final decision.

Turner said they will discuss the issue further at the next board meeting.

Region 8 News will continue to track this story and bring you any new information as soon as it becomes available.

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