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UPDATE: Bus drivers consider walkout over benefit changes

It’s 7 a.m. on a cold morning in January and Valerie Wood drives her bus route early in order to pick up one child – because he is homeless. Wood, who has been driving for Loudoun County for more than six years, makes a special exception to pick up a little boy 50 minutes early and has a blanket on the bus for him to keep him warm on extremely cold mornings.

Wood’s employment benefits are in question after a Loudoun County School Board discussion about the benefits of part-time workers who work between 3.5-to-7 hours a day being completely cut. Hundreds of drivers attended the School Board public hearing and work session Jan. 31 dressed in black and red to show their frustration. They say that many have taken jobs as drivers specifically for the benefits.

The school boardroom was scattered with residents and LCPS employees on Jan. 31 wearing black and red in protest of proposed cuts in the budget that would affect part-time employees. More than 400 people gathered with more than 80 who had signed up to speak.

One amendment to the proposed questions Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) brought up first thing was to change the hour bracket from the 3.5 to 7 hours to be affected by cuts to 3.5 to 6 hours – keeping teaching assistants on county benefits.

Many speakers who were both full-time and part-time employees shared the same sentiment over the potential loss of benefits that most had taken jobs within the schools in order to receive.

“Let’s keep in mind that the majority in this room are the people. In this world there are needs and wants. Benefits are needs. This board wants to take away the benefits of the bus drivers and others, that is a want, that is not a need,” explained Fran Lettington, a bus driver for LCPS for 10 years. Lettington has also been working for LCPS for 18 years as a substitute teacher. “Loudoun County Public Schools is not a private club where you can make decisions just to cut corners. This is a county government job. If you need to cut, cut it across the board from the top of the crop to the bottom of the basket. It doesn’t matter the hours we work, it’s the job we were hired for. What others do doesn’t make them any better than I am at mine. It takes a special person to drive students to school and like what they do. Benefits is why I drive a bus. If Warren Geurin were here, God rest his soul, he would be working for the people. He also puts the students first and that is where the bus drivers come into play.”

During budget work sessions, the School Board tried to find alternative ways of decreasing the school system’s proposed operating budget for fiscal 2013.

If these discussed changes are put into effect, a majority of the bus drivers who spoke with the Times-Mirror have threatened to walk out.

According to School Board policy §7-8 (b)(1), “full-time employment is defined as being the sole employee under a regular contract or assignment in a position that is budgeted for at least 180 days, for no less than 3.5 hours daily or the equivalent. Two employees who initiate a request and are permitted to share a full-time position of at least 180 days per year and no less than seven hours daily may be identified as full-time employees but will only be eligible for prorated health benefits.”

Hornberger asked senior school staff Jan. 20 to provide the estimated cost savings, types of positions and number of full-time employees affected should the policy be modified to no less than seven hours daily or the equivalent.

According to school staff, the estimated cost savings of modifying the policy would save approximately $24 million as 1,864 positions would no longer be eligible for the Virginia Retirement System, group life insurance, healthcare, dental, vision, or short-term disability. The group would no longer be eligible for optional employee-paid benefits such as long-term disability, cancer insurance, long-term care insurance, or family sick leave bank. Those employees whose status would change from full-time to part-time under this scenario would also no longer receive leave of any kind.

Employees who have worked in the Loudoun County School System for less than five years would be eligible for a payout of the employee contributions made on their behalf prior to July 1, 2010. Employees that have worked for the school system for greater than five years would be eligible for a payout of all contributions or could leave the VRS contributions until they reach the age or amount of service requirement for retirement.

The positions that range from 3.5 hours to 6.84 hours and would be affected include 402 bus drivers, 50 bus attendants, 1,136 teaching assistants, 72 teachers, 183 cafeteria workers and 21 other varying positions.

Hornberger clarified at the Jan. 26 meeting the reasoning behind costing the seven hours as the full-time requirement.

“Just as a point of clarification, seven hours was chosen just because it was double of 3.5, not because there is any intention on my part to do that,” Hornberger said.

Rebecca Lee, who drives bus No. 216 for LCPS, says she’s been driving for more than five years in Loudoun County and about two years ago had to relocate to Maryland because she couldn’t afford to raise her family in Loudoun County. She kept her job because of the benefits, and took her daughter out of a Loudoun County Public School and into a less affluent school.
“I’ve dedicated myself and I’m proud of myself – I tell everyone I drive for Loudoun County,” Lee said. “I’ve been here for five years and I’ve had benefits since the get-go and now you want to take them away? I have health issues. I need my benefits.”

According to Lee, by law for a person to hold a commercial driver’s license, they have to be healthy. If a driver’s health is not strong enough to operate that vehicle the state will take away their license. 

“If you pull my health insurance from me you’re saying I will never get sick? Your doctor has to say that you can operate that vehicle in that manner,” Lee said.

Kim Wright said she relies on her husband’s insurance, but when he lost his job, she was able to use her own benefits. Wright feels that since she’s around so many sick children it should be the county’s responsibility to cover her.

“The thing that gets me more than anything is I love my kids but they’re little germ mongers and you’re not going to pay us when we get sick?” Wright asked. “You’re not going to pay me when I get sick because I’m exposed to all these sick little children I carry, that doesn’t make a darn bit of sense.”

According to LCPS Public Information Officer Wayde Byard, there is not a proposal that has been announced.

“There is no real proposal on the bus drivers at this time, we just costed out what the School Board asked us to do,” Byard said.

Jeff Platenberg, assistant superintendent for the Department of Support Services, noted that a lot of bus drivers with LCPS work strictly for the benefits.

“The point about some people doing it strictly for the benefits, that is absolutely correct. The flexibility of the job really does allow for a perfect fit,” Platenberg said. “A lot of people don’t realize that there was a time when it was extremely difficult to get bus drivers here, because our neighbors next door in Prince William offered benefits and that is one of reasons we went to that.

“When we are all competing for people, it becomes a dynamic environment to try and attract and retain those employees,” Platenberg said.

Platenberg is concerned that if changes are made, there will be major problems in being able to serve the students of Loudoun County.

“There has already been an impact. Absolutely. Keep in mind, we have taken budget reductions over the last couple of years in transportation and we have doubled up on middle school runs and more second runs on the elementary level,” Platenberg said. “I do think there would be an adverse impact and service level would be impacted definitely.”


If you want benifits go to United Airlines for $8.00 per hour or Mc Donalds. No decent paying part time or contract job pays emploees benifits.
What world are you living in, and if you voted for Obama, he will make changes, keep waiting.
Lots of people work 2 part time jobs to make ends meet. If you are driving a school bus and collecting a pension like a lot of you are than you can afford to by your benifits. Check other states, Texas, California, just to mention a few, NO BENIFITS FOR THEIR PART TIME DRIVERS.
I also am a part timer making $27. and hour, NO BENIFITS.

That’s 32 hours to get welfare benefits!

In California you have to work 32 hours a week to get your benfits but not in the Loudoun school district.

Another… Please keep the comments professional.  :(

West Bus… I’m feeling much better about things now. I finally rested well last night. 

Thank you to all who supported us!

Another, it’s done…we won…get over it!

@LCPS p-on…. *high-5*  the joke will be on them (the public) if the Board does not vote in our best interest.  And FYI Mr & Mrs Public, most bus drivers think its hilarious when the you haul ass past our busses, only to meet us at the next red light!  LMFAO!!

Raises and Benefits for all! Now we can get back to the important stuff…our kids! Thank you to all who participated in this discussion, I’ve enjoyed the debate.

Fear, actually everyone could have what they want, IF we cut the waste. Let me give you an example: the buses have GPS systems but Transportation is going to add electronic time clocks to all the buses as well. The cost is astronomical, and overkill! Pull the GPS reports and get the same result with one piece of equipment. That’s just one example off the top of my head. Oh, and those buses with seatbelts cost an extra 20k, and I don’t know of a single child who wears them. See what I’m saying? Loudoun mandated themselves to do the seatbelt thing, VA does not require them. The other issue with those particular buses is the narrow aisles. Someone weighing 120 LBS. can’t get down the aisle unless they go sideways. Now picture a loaded bus with a sick kid in the last row…how long will it take us to get to this child to help? That type of bus also breaks down more frequently than the rest of the fleet. Just thoughts…..

While “west bus” appears to be genuinely concerned about the budget, the rest of these drivers who have commented seem indifferent to the idea that their sacrifice will benefit the children by channeling more funds into the classroom where education belongs. The issue needs to be framed: Classroom Benefits the Students or Fringe benefits for the part-time.

Let me just start out by saying my bus run starts out at 545am for those people who think that driving a bus starts at 700. To those people who think that there are attendants on all buses, think again. Special needs buses are the only buses that have attendants. We deal with seizure prone students, a child having a meltdown, vomiting to name a few. How many of you would know what to do if a child is having a seizure? To the one that complained about being cut off my a bus driver. Have you stop to think that it would be nice to let us in once in a while? In most cases its because we have a right or left turn coming up. To the same person who was talking about the discourteous bus driver WELCOME TO OUR WORLD you morons. We deal with this every day. To the ones that see a parent and bus driver “chit chatting” Don’t assume that they’re talking about th weather or what they’re having for dinner. There are many reasons why a parent is talking to a driver. Especially for the special need buses. Could be someone different picking up the student, a problem the child is having… They could be talking while the attendant is getting that child situated. I say to any parents out there that think part time employees don’t deserve benefits and are willing to drive their kids to school then more power to ya. You think there is gridlock now just wait. You’ve seen nothing yet. To the person that said she makes 18.75 an hour and pays 75.00 a wk. Well guess what I make less than you and pay out more a month than you so you do the math. I pay $356 and change at 17.25 an hour. So what makes you any better than us. To all the idiots that have a problem with school buses and most likely driving YOUR children to school then why do you have them take the bus anyway? So next time you decide to run our lights, pass us in a no passing zone, cut us off, what have you remember its your precious angels we’re transporting.We’re not the lousy drivers you are. So if part time employees lose their benefits you will find yourselves driving your kids to school. It will get old really fast. I know if my benefits are cut I may not walk out but I guarentee I won’t be doing any extra runs. I’m only contracted for 5 hours and thats all I’m doing.

I believe that all Classified Employees are going to be safe this year. I have done alot of digging, emailing and talking on the phone regarding this issue. While I am not ready to be sure who to believe I would say what the SB wants is a line item budget. Unfortunately the Administration isn’t used to doing things this way, and is unhappy with the process. There is alot of waste in the budget, if the SB is able to eliminate that all employees will be able to keep their benefits and hopefully receive much overdue raises. Again, I would be truly surprised to see any cuts to benefits this year. A word of caution LCPS Employees, attend as many meetings as you can, educate yourselves, and make your ideas and presence known! We may be finally finding our voice! :)

The bus folks who attend to my special needs son are solid gold.  Why should budget cuts be made on their backs, they have one of the most important and difficult jobs around.

Iwould like to let these parents know something about our jobs I’ve been with this LCPS for 37 yrs.the first 8 yrs we did not have any benefits I made $8.00 a day. We went to the country and ask for some benefits,sick leave, health ins.etc our job was to take care of your child first to get them home safe and to school. I’ve laid under a bus putting changes on so we could have school the next day.Iv’e had to walk 2 miles with my Kindergarten on icy to get help because the bus stop runing no radio, to callfor help very little heat you would be so cold. We have a job that a lot of people say to me no way in hell I have your job and they think we are going to work with out benefits I don’t think so.Things are better,but the job that each and everyone takes onis a lot of responsibility and we do it.We have people that have no respect for these buses they run our lights when we are loading or unloading the kids Iam sick of it they don’t care.And they think we have a cushion job come ride with me for just a few hrs.I could tell you a lot more ,but would it make a diffence to some of you negative and nasty people out there our job is just important as your.

B, Styler, I’m beginning to lean in your direction.
I’m also no longer sure that the benefits for classified employees are necessarily in jeopardy. I am also impressed to learn that the SB actually wants to hear from all the employees in an effort to remain fiscally responsible, and take care of all of us. Many more questions to follow…

This is not over, might never be so.  But it seems to have been blown out of proportion.  The SB is on a learning curve and trying to take their fiscal responsibilities seriously.  To do this they have to ask a lot of probing, what-if questions.  The SB is trying to find out how best to focus the maximum resources on schoolroom instruction.  Meanwhile, they are, and always have been, aware of the need for transportation.  The end reality is that the SB is charged with getting the most bang that is possible out of what the Board of Supervisors allocates to LCPS.  This is not a two-day-a-month effort.  Moreover, there are many divergent opinions and competing interests.

There was a meeting at the Purcellville Public Library yesterday with Jill Turgeon. I couldn’t make it, but there was an interesting exchange of concerns and ideas. I sincerely hope that classified employees will get a definite answer on Tuesday night. There are alot of job applications out there, and interviews are being set up. Please resolve this for the employees.

This homeless student is transported to his “home school” to keep some continuity in his life.  The reporter got the times wrong but I am at my bus at 06:30, I pick him up a little before 07:00.  When I started here almost 8 years ago I has students I picked up at 05:55 and transported from Leesburg to Algonkian area.  I do everything I can to make the ride fun for these kids.  They are in shelters and things are being provided for them.  I have another student who I have had the pleasure of watching him grow and reach goals on his IEP since he was 4.  This child is wheelchair bound and will never speak but his eyes answer questions and he lights up and blinks repeatedly when you ask him if he wants to ride the bus with Miss Val!  Things like this remind us all that we do make a difference in their lives on a daily basis.  Could you imagine putting your child on a bus with someone who doesn’t show.compassion or care about your child’s safety and needs, who let’s you know exactly how his trip went.  I have parents who are begging me to come back, I tell them I want to and beg my supervisors to place me with them each year.

Perhaps we should start by reducing the pay of the LCPS school board members.
Thank you to the bus drivers who get my kids to school safely and do a good job.

This sucks for the drivers that have 4 and 5 hour contracts and work 6,7 or more doing what ever they can to help out.

Jill Turgeon is holding a 3 pm meeting to dispel rumors and answer Qeustions. Meeting is at the Purcellville Library. F.Y.I.

The SB has not made any official decision regarding any of this. Although they are scheduled to vote on the proposed budget on Tuesday (this week), they could always continue to make revisions and cuts.  It’s far from over, regardless of what happens on Tuesday.

Regarding claims of no companies offering benefits to part-time employees, it just isn’t true.  Google “part-time jobs that offer benefits” and you’ll find a list of the best.

GK, you and I will never see eye to eye on this - we are looking at the issue from two very different angles.

If LCPS does cut these benefits, and I hope they don’t, we’ll see what happens.  My intuition tells me it’ll be a storm the likes of which I’ve never seen in LoCo, but I acknowledge that I really don’t know everything and I never said I did, for that matter.
One thing is for sure, I’m not going to stop supporting the LCPS employees and the schools.

Just Another, I’ve got your back, and I think everyone feels the same way. I will however pass on the awards, banquets and bus rodeo. Those were a waste of money!

It’s too bad - not only do classified and certified employees alike deal with bad behavior, selfish motives, and disrespect from some students, but also from adults here.

Thank you to all the bus Drivers.  We are often bypassed during Staff appreciation week, we no longer receive safety awards and or service awards.  We don’t even have an award banquet at all anymore. The end of the school year lunch that is given at the transportation dept. is for office staff only.  Despite all this we can still rally together and show that we got each others back

Your right they should not be getting benefits either!

GK, this isn’t the private sector. Why then do board members who have other jobs and only work 2 days a month for the county get full benefits?

Elle I did not mean to spell your name wrong previously, sorry! Your crystal ball has cracks in it. I did not see a ad for bus drivers in the classifieds. I said 32 hours and under is part time the board sees it as 30 hours and under. Even at 30 hours a week or 5 hours a day it come to 1560 hours worked to be full time employee. None of this 180 day 5 hours a day as full time it just does not compute. Any private company would go under if they were forced to pay benefits for part timers. Why is the school system different? You work you get benefits you work part time its sorry charlie.

LET ME SAY IT AGAIN. The board has lowered the minimum to 6 hours! Teachers Assistants ARE SAFE! The rest of us are in jeopardy.

I just want to add to this as a teaching assistant in Loudoun County. I work at an elementary school. I work 187 days a year. I get paid only for the hours I work. I think it works out to something like 6.32 hours a day. The pay is around $14 an hour. Most of us work second or third jobs. Personally, I work my normal day at school and then I go wait tables 3-4 days a week until 10:00 at night only to be up again at 6:00 AM to get ready for school. I babysit and work odd jobs on the weekends, all while going to graduate school. I do this job because I love it and it gets me the experience necessary for my degree in education. Once I finish doing this for the next year and my degree is done, hopefully I can get a teaching job and not have to work so many different jobs. It will still be a lot of hours, but just one job.

Just to clarify—we get paid for the days and hours we work. This is stretched throughout the year, so we do get paid during the summer, but only for the hours we already worked.

If my benefits were to be taken away I don’t know what I would do. My husband works an hourly job at a store with no benefits available. I have a lot of health problems even though I am a young person.

I love my job and I love each and every child I take care of. I don’t take it lightly that parents trust us with their children each and every day. If LCPS wants to continue to hire highly qualified and caring people such as myself, they will need to continue to offer competitive benefits. The pay I get isn’t much…I mostly do what I do for health insurance. I make more in a weekend of waiting tables than I do in my 2-week school paychecks.

Take away my benefits, and I’ll have to go to waiting tables full-time and hope I don’t have to have emergency surgery like I did last year, which would have set me back over $40,000 without insurance. And at that point I was a healthy 23 year old.

These bus drivers, like the LCPS teachers, deal with a lot, including a majority of kids who lack something called “respect.” I have never seen anything like this! Luckily, there are SOME Loudoun kids who know how to behave and show respect, but the others need a lesson on this. Parental role-modeling at its finest. Best wishes to all of the hard-working bus drivers and teachers, because you truly put up with a lot and don’t get shown the appreciation that you ALL deserve!

tired and cheapo - agree with your comments. Apparently some people feel that it isn’t cost effective to offer a competitive compensation package to LCPS bus drivers and other classified employees.

Since GK thinks I’m all-knowing, I’m looking into my crystal ball and seeing that if these employees lose their benefits, they will find that their jobs are not cost effective and they will move on to other jobs.  Problem is LCPS will have to find people willing to fill these low paying jobs and then they’ll have to pay to train them all.

You win GK.  LCPS should cut the benefits for anyone working less than 40 hours/week!!!! (Yep, I’m being sarcastic).

Thanks to Cheapo and Tired. We are too! 25 years of the same benefits may be coming to an end. I have alot more to say, but I’m tired. Cross your fingers for us, and thanks for your support.

To the anti-taxers:

Matthew 17: 24-27,  Matthew 22: 15-22, Romans 13: 1-2, and Romans 13: 5-7

Sad…I bet all the posters who don’t want to pay for “part-timers” insurance and health care HAVE health care and don’t have to worry about it. They probably would also take away all county govt and school employee benefits if they could. Maybe they should drive the kids themselves for free. Lets see how that goes…any takers?

Read “tired of the haters” post. By NOT paying benefits, we are just passing the cost on to ourselves in a different form- less county money and more state, fed, higher health care costs to those who pay…on and on. I think the policy of benefits for those that work those part time hours throughout the county govt as well, not just schools. Plus…dont all you parents want the school bus driver to be able to go (affordability)to the dr so they do not pass staph, mrsa, and who knows what else…to the kids?

South Riding Parent, Bernie Madoff..Enron..Ted Bundy was an Eagle Scout…there’s a bad apple in evey barrel. Non of which should reflect on their respective colleagues.

Benefits for part timers?
Lets say 180 days @ 5 hours a day =‘s 900 hours
      260 days @ 8 hours a day =‘s 2080 hour
So the 5 hour a day person who works 180 days should pay more than twice as much for any benefits!

“$500 with a $100 down payment”  Times must really be hard for LCPS bus drivers… when they’re forced to use the Murder-For-Hire-Economy-Plan. LMFAO!!  X-LCPS bus driver Ann Jenene Cinnamon was probably watching the Board meeting from her jail cell!  So glad my kids didn’t ride HER bus!

the problem with not continuing to provide benefits to people who make little money is this: If benefits are provided, such as medical care, then those employees will USE that benefit…if it is NOT provided then they wait until they are very ill, go to the hospital which they cannot afford and WE the tax payer pay anyway! Hospitals cannot turn people away because they cannot pay so…..we pay, through our tax money AND our higher insurance costs. And since they are ill and cannot work, we have to pay to train another person to do the job, then there is no work available for the ill person and now they are on unemployment or disability and WE pay again…I would rather pay a small amount for preventative care than a huge bill later.

O.K., I figured it out…a bit slow on a Friday! The homeless boy must live in a shelter, or we wouldn’t have a place to pick him up. Ms. Woods as with all drivers is going the extra mile to help him.

SJ-Au, as I mentioned, more info. please. We do pick up homeless students at shelters…in terms of transportation to school, not housing. We will also attempt to transport the child to the school he/she was attending.

Genghis, were you aware that LCPS has always had a $500.00 referral bonus for drivers who refer other folks to become drivers? It’s not happening! I could use a couple of good referral fees! NO ONE will come to work doing any of the jobs in question without the benefits! PERIOD! I wish I had the money to bet you!

I’m confused, what homeless child? Can you give us more details? I do know LCPS probably won’t get involved in that area, but The Dept. of Health or CPS will.

The real story here is the one of the Homeless child.  Has the County or LCPS looked into providing services or temporary shelter for this child and family near a standard LCPS bus stop? Yes the benefits question is important; but not as important as a child’s safety and education. I request the TimesMirror to look into why the LCPS and County services has not undertaken steps to assist this child and others in similar situation.

So the all seeing Elle knows that the people who come to work here if the benefits are taken away are not as capable as the current drivers. Why would the standards be lower. They have to get the same certifications and pass the same tests.
If your hours don’t add up no bennies. Don’t accept the contract offered.

“Simple economics, the more people, the more services are required. It’s really a pipe dream to think taxes are going to go down.”

That is such a flawed statement. The more people who move here, the more real estate tax revenue there is for the county. The cost per household really shouldn’t change (unless you have Democrats calling the shots).

That’s precious cargo, and it was actually started by the Moms! ;)

Would ya’ll stop referring to the kids as “cargo”?

Think of the children!!!!

Elle, glad my poor explanation made sense! Very Proud, great comment! Concerned, Most all of the new runs are coming out at around 4, established runs have been pared down for several reasons: Parents didn’t want their kids on the buses that long, loss of activity and other special runs, and trying to cut expenses. I can remember when you could add an activity, Futura, K-run to your contract and they were up for bid frequently. Those days are long gone, there’s just no way to get extra hours added to your contract. They took away the Cafeteria Monitor program 3 years ago, that was a great way to get some extra hours. What people don’t understand is it’s starting here, but it’s going to work it’s way up the food chain…this isn’t going to stop with us! As for more taxes? They’ll happen with or without us. Even in a depressed economy the county is growing at a startling rate. Simple economics, the more people, the more services are required. It’s really a pipe dream to think taxes are going to go down. Everyone wants something, but doesn’t want to pay for it.

vote these people out:
Can’t wait to do it.

Ironically, we are gearing up for the Super Bowl, which is a millions of dollars extravaganza for what boils down to entertainment.  Our society puts billions of dollars into entertainment, sports, luxery cars, etc, but when it comes to paying people who truly make a difference to society, some scream about it.
The people who choose public education careers, law enforcement, fire and emergency services careers should NOT carry the burden for society by working for below standard compensation and in work environments that do not provide for the safety and security of the employees.
Unfortunately, I think there is a deep-seated bias against these employees that still exists.

West Bus… there is a good possibility! I do have several friends in the West area.  I appreciate your comments as well. I think we would need more data in order to answer the question accurately. I’m not sure how many hours the “average” driver works.

I am a bus driver and have been driving for LCPS for 7 years.  I would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to make such wonderful remarks about the bus drivers.  I would also like to state that I know this is scary and very frustrating for all of us….but PLEASE if you work for LCPS….don’t use profanity or voice negative comments on this site.  When you do….you make us all look bad! 

For some of you that think school bus drivers are uneducated people who can’t get a job elsewhere….you are incorrect.  For me personally….I had a job working for a title company as a title agent doing real estate settlements.  And just like me there are a lot of career mom’s that after having children went to work for LCPS so they could have a job, spend time with their children and not have to send them to daycare which many of you may know is extremely expensive in Loudoun County.  I am currently working with bus drivers that drove me to school 25+ years ago….that is dedication that for the most part you don’t find elsewhere. 

I LOVE my job!!!  I look at each and every child on my bus as if they were my own.  My job is to transport your children to and from school safely and I personally take my job very seriously!!!  If your child is on my bus and gets sick….I make sure that child is OK, I get a nurse to meet my bus to ensure that child doesn’t go through the day not feeling well and I clean up whatever mess might of been made on my bus as a result of their illness!!  I do this not only as part of my job…..I do it because I am a mother and would want someone to take care of my children in the same manner!!  I know the name of EVERY child on my bus.  I say good morning to each and every one of them as they get on my bus, have a good day when they get to school and have a good night & see you tomorrow when they go home!!!  You never know what kind of life a child may have…..I may be the first person that some of these kids actually talk to in the morning.  I use my money to buy the children on my bus a goodie bag of fun stuff every year around the holidays…..this year it was reindeer antlers, a slinky, a notepad and a pen…..I do this because I respect them and appreciate their good behavior and positive attitudes!  My kids always ask me before school breaks for summer….“If I will promise to be their bus driver again next year”.....So for some of you who think that bus drivers do nothing more than sit behind the wheel of a bus and drive…...you are VERY WRONG!!!  We transport your precious cargo to and from school and it’s our JOB to make sure they get there safely!!

West End,
Thanks.  So even though you may work Sept - June (for example purposes only), the pay for this 10 month timeframe is divided evenly through the entire year. The county has one-two months of LCPS employees’ pay in it’s coffers earning interest.
It’s nice for budgeting purposed to have the 12 months of pay.  Trade-offs.

The most interesting comment I heard during the public hearing came from the bus driver who asserted that she did not know she was now working for the “LTP” Little Tea Party.

This spectacle of the lowest ranking public school workers potentially being stripped of their benefits - the most important part of their compensation package- in the wealthiest county in the USA is despicable.  It is a microcosm of what has happened all over the country as politicians paid for by the wealthy screw the little guys to the wall.  Pubic workers at all levels (teachers, feds, cops, firemen, bus drivers, etc. etc.) are looked down upon by these people as parasites on society (until of course they need to use their services).

Look out, the backlash is rolling across the country and may just have landed in Loudoun County.  I say to all public employees and those who appreciate what they do for the community to GET OUT AND VOTE in November, this year and every year.  It is the only real power we have against these hateful reactionaries.

Concerned, do I know you? Your writing sounds familiar! lol!!!

Our salary is prorated, that’s why we get paid during the summer. Your contract is your contract…period, weather it be 4 hours or 8. Your benefits are only based on that contract amount. What I’m trying to say (badly) is we really don’t ever make our actual salary amount because of the prorate, if we drive hours over our contract we receive our actual salary amount, but that doesn’t count toward benefits. I really hope this made sense, it’s a weird system.

no problem with the name.  It’s hard to read on the computer.  It only bothered my when GK misspelled it.  : )

Sorry, I misspelled your name Elle.

Hi Again, West End,
Thanks for all your comments, too.
So what I believe you are saying is that your benefits ARE PRORATED and although you may typically work more than your contracted hours, you do not receive additional benefits for the extra hours. So, someone contracted for 6 hours per day may end up working 8 hours a day frequently.  Is that correct?

Dear Ellie, thank you for your support and comments.

We are paid for our “extra” hours, but they are not considered part of our contracted hours.  Also, many drivers work over the summer as well and those hours are also “not contracted hours”.  The special needs area is busy for most of the summer. 

In effect, if they take away the benefits, many of the drivers will lose half of our compensation.  This isn’t a great deal of money especially once our portion of the insurance premiums are paid. I pay a monthly premium of 351.56 for our family of four for health and dental insurance.  When I began working for LCPS, my share of the monthly premium was 263.12.

Well stated Concerned! What Gengis is still missing is that even when we do extra (over and above our contract) it doesn’t count toward benefit eligibility. In other words if we’re contracted for 5 hours, and actually work 8, the last 3 don’t count. We are benefited only at 5.

My point is that the standards will have to be lowered if qualified applicants can not be found who are willing to do this work with no benefits and earning low pay. Why take on all this responsibility and this type of work when you can go work someplace else?

Concerned Driver,
Thank you for adding your comments! You are helping the public see a truer picture of the situation. Hopefully LCPS pays you hourly for additional hours worked. It sounds like even though a driver is contracted for 4-6 hours per day, they may work more like 7-8 day sometimes.

Thanks for your comments! There are alot of misconceptions out there.  It’s good to bring light to the subject.

If you fill in and qualify for full time benefits with full time hours hurrah for you! The warm bodies are governed by the same tests and requirements that you are so a difference I don’t see. Your points do not sway me away from 32 hours and under is part time. Prorated benefits if any is all that should be made available to part time help.

Genghis Khan you have no idea what you’re talking about. Most bus drivers are CONTRACTED between 4 - 6 hours a day, but many of us (yes, I’m a bus driver) work more hours than that during the day.  We fill in and take up the slack when others are absent, we drive field trips, we do safety and bus evacuation drills, have meetings, fuel and maintain our buses and take classes to keep certifications up to date.  These additional things we do are not within our “contracted hours”, but we take pride in what we do and want to make sure our buses are clean and safe and that we’re always prepared and certified to drive. The contracted hours are the actual hours we spend driving the bus and does NOT include the additional duties mentioned above. 

Furthermore, on rare occasion I’ve seen some drivers that don’t really seem to care about the kids.  They drive the bus period.  That is not the kind of individual you want to have driving your children Loudoun.  You want someone who interacts with the students and genuinely cares.  If this change happens, you will indeed have some warm bodies who drive the kids back and forth to school.  However, I believe there will be an increase in incidents and problems on the buses and there will also likely be overcrowding because they will NOT be able to hire enough warm bodies to replace us!

School bus drivers are not just drivers… they are the first and last contact of the day for the students and well trained in CPR, First Aid, and are required to take driver re-certification classes. 

I love my job and take pride in it. I’m also a parent and a taxpayer. I would not have taken this job if it were not for the benefits. The benefits are part of the compensation PACKAGE!!!  I will have no choice but to find employment elsewhere if this change happens. I took this job when my kids were young so that I could take them with me and also spend time over the summer with them.  Now that my kids are older, with my experience and education I could get another job, but I would really miss my kids… I mean students.  :(  If the warm bodies begin driving the students to school, I will likely drive my own kids to school. I think a lot of parents would agree with me.  Can you imagine the traffic problems this may cause?

180 days a year 4 hours a day is part time. If the government can’t say it I can.

From the US Dept of Labor website, regarding employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which included teaching assistants, bus drivers, lunch room workers, etc:

How many hours is full-time employment? How many hours is part-time employment?

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not define full-time employment or part-time employment. This is a matter generally to be determined by the employer. Whether an employee is considered full-time or part-time does not change the application of the FLSA.

working parent - you didn’t read what the post said.  They are not asking to be paid for their lunch breaks.  Sheesh - read before you rant.

Full time benefits for part time work if that’s the case throw in full time pay also. Phase the drivers out who now get the extra benefits. New hires if part time get pro-rated benefits per the hours worked. I for one do not want to have my taxes pay health care for a part time employee no matter what their job is. Instead of taxes going up how about a balanced budget with a decrease in taxes. So a person just out of college is not good enough to drive the precious cargo? When does a person become ready to drive a bus? The standards and training seem to be good enough for some but not for others? I guess Ellie can be the new Bus-driver Selector (BS) since she can see into the future and knows we’ll get only warm bodies to drive our kids.

I can’t believe these school district whiners!  Now they want to get paid for their lunch breaks?! WTF! Hey people, get out in the real world of work because NONE of us get paid for our lunch breaks and we don’t get benefits for part time work!  Sheesh, what planet are you people on!?!

Maybe kids today wouldn’t be so FAT if LCPS didn’t feel the need to put a bus stop every 100 meters. Spread the bus stops out a little and make the kids walk to get to them. It’ll be the most exercise they get.

Also, what is all the fuss with bus transportation? Every time I drive by a school I see a huge line of snobby parents who provide their own transporation (have to show off that new leased BMW, huh).

Anyhow Educated, they’ve dropped the minimum to 6 hours, so you’re safe! It’s really the bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and a handful of others who are at risk.

Educated Assistant, in the interest of getting ‘real’ information out to the people please let everyone know you’re insuring your family…not just yourself. Insurance for a couple or single person doesn’t cost that much. I’m not trying to ‘out’ you as it were, but if we want the citizens of Loudoun to understand we have to tell the whole story. ;)

Aldie Resident, Engaging your red lights when you stop to pick up a student is a Federally mandated law…no way around that one. It’s really not the driver being rude, it’s the parent who isn’t getting the student to the bus in a timely manner. All of us have one of those on our bus. The child may be having issues, and the bus stop is the only time parents have to communicate with the driver. Even if you could pass, I strongly urge you not to! It’s a safety hazard, and if there happened to be a Police Officer who saw you the least you’d get would be a day in court for the ticket he wrote you, and the most would be a suspended license…running red lights is a reckless driving offense. Save yourself the aggravation, leave 5 minutes earlier or later! ;)

I have worked as a teacher assistant for 9 years.  I would like to point out that my benefits cost me $351.56/month.  I get paid for 6 hours and 50 minutes per day (34.2 hrs/week) even though I’m at work 7.5 hours a day (which is 37.5 hrs/week).  Teacher assistants do NOT get paid for the 1/2 hour of lunch they are supposed to get so that’s how they’ll get us to fall into the under 7 hrs./day category.  The teachers DO get paid for their lunch times, but not the assistants.  I see teachers leave the school before some assistants do… but the teachers will be safe from this demoralizing travesty.  Most of the teacher assistants are educated with college degrees but took the job so they could be available to their own school age children during summers and semester breaks… and NO the assistants do not get paid for those times we are not working.  We only get paid for the 187 days that we work.

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I think attendants are only on special needs/handicapped busses, NOT the regular education busses.

I agree with “Fox” regarding discourteous bus drivers.  I am a commuter and resident of Aldie. I’ve been following this story with interest and would like to add something.  I’ve previously had the misfortune of following a particular LCPS bus every morning on New Road in Aldie.  Every morning the driver would stop at the last farm just before Rt 15 and hold up traffic with their red lights on.  This is while the kid’s parent take their sweet time driving down the driveway with the kid.  The kid then has to spend a few more minutes gathering up all of his posessions in the car, then eventually makes his way to the bus.  All the while the line of traffic is getting longer.  To make matters worse, the driver would then allow the parent to approach the driver’s window and engage in conversation.  This is all done with red lights flashing.  Unfortunately, New Road is an extremely narrow dirt road and there is no room to navigate around the bus.  My opinion is that the bus should NOT have red lights on until the parent has at keast reached the end of the driveway. Having them on long before the car even arrives at the end of the driveway is just plain stupid.  The child should have all of his schoolwork and other items ready to exit the car and proceed to the bus.  The bus driver should not hold up traffic carrying on chit chat with the parent like they are old drinking buddies!  This driver appears to be one who lacks common sense and courtesy.  Thank you for allowing me to vent.

Fox, only Special Needs buses have attendants…no worries there! They really aren’t brats, if you pick and choose your battles, and are consistant…honest! When I was a kid the driver could kick you off the bus…wherever. That’s not P.C. anymore. Thanks for your support regarding vested employees, that’s how we feel. Then you can decide if this is something you really want to do. I have to go to bed, 4 am gets here pretty quickly, hope I’ve answered your questions! Oh, if you feel a driver is unsafe call transportation! It’s your right.

@Fox Regarding your comment about almost getting run off the road by one of our busses.  I’m an LCPS employee in the Transportation Dept.  Altough no longer a bus driver, I can tell you that your close encounter was probably with that of one of our prima donna Field Trip drivers.  They are apparently allowed to exceed every rule we have from A-Z.  Including, but not limited to speeding and aggressive driving.  Depending who they are, decides what rules they must adhere to.  (One of them recently smashed up a new bus in the Tuscarora parking lot and it was swept under the rug as usual) In any event, too bad you didn’t get the bus number (not that it would have done any good - depending upon who was driving) you could have call it in to personnel and filed a formal complaint.

Gengis, OK, wow, you really didn’t read my post but you had alot to say about me personally.




Wow, what an assortment of comments!  So let me add my $0.02 worth.  You could not PAY me to be a school bus driver because I cringe at the thought of driving a huge vehicle full of brats, in rush-hour traffic.  My thing is this:  if they were hired with the expectation that they would receive certain benefits, then let them keep them.  Period.  These cuts could start with future bus drivers.
What’s up with needing bus driver attendants?  I can understand the necessity for having them on board buses that transport children with special needs.  But on all the buses?  Really?  Why can’t they just kick the kids off the bus and let mommy or daddy drive them back and forth until they learn to behave themselves.
I smiled at the suggestion of cutting Dr. Hatrick’s salary, which I feel is absolutely OBSCENE, because of the comment that he just sits there.  Well, don’t forget that he DOES do more than just sit at a desk.  Has everybody forgotten all the trips overseas, at taxpayer expense?  Ever hear of a boondoggle?
Better finish this up before I get myself in trouble.  However, I could NOT stop before adding one final comment.  I’ve lived in Loudoun County 35 years, and had the pleasure of driving in rush-hour traffic during that time.  It’s been my observation on many, many, MANY occasions that a lot of busdrivers do not know what a STOP sign is!  I had a close call on Riverside Parkway recently, when a bus driver pulled out in front of me, even though I had the right of way.  Or, at least I THOUGHT that I did.  She almost ran me off the road, and honking the horn did no good. She never even looked in my direction.  Guess when you have a big vehicle like that, you can pretty much do what you want to, and the heck with anyone driving a passenger car, huh?  But it was much worse when I lived in western Loudoun.  One driver, in particular, would stop at almost every house on the two-lane road, which meant of course that everybody behind them had to stop, too, because that’s a no-brainer, plus a state law.  However, to add insult to injury, the driver of the bus would allow the spoiled kids’s parents to just pull out ahead of the bus, because apparently, the parents were more important and deserved special treatment.  Where are the deputies when you need them?  If they can’t drive properly then take their jobs from them.

Genghis, with or without us your taxes are going to go up, or you’ll be charged in another way. Loudoun County added 12,000 new residents in 2011. These people probably have kids…I don’t have the stats. No one wants overcrowded schools, or long bus rides. Everyone wants cutting edge technology. The problem arises when no one wants to pay for it. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a pay now, or pay later proposition. Funny thing is I remember My folks moaning about the same thing…nothing is new under the sun. And it’s true, the two things you can count on are death and taxes. I’m 50, so this stuff has been around for a while! ;)

Everyone is somebodys priceless treasure wouldn’t you say Ellie. I don’t care if you are covered by insurance I care that our tax dollars are being doled out to people who do not work full time. Full time job equals full time bennies. 32 and under does not meet the criteria in a normal job atmosphere. Your kids should be affored the same care as anyone else nothing more.

East Driver, I’m in the same boat, and am very concerned about the vote on Tuesday, but I have to ask….why would having a board member ride your bus help them change their mind?

Is it possible for each board member to ride on a bus for a week before making any decisions?  That should end the problem once and for all!

@Tahoe   exactly!  A lot of the “haters” here are probably the same ones who run our red lights and endanger the lives of the children we transport to school.  I’m sure if someone in THEIR family drove a bus for a living, they would be more supportive and understand why we are so upset.  The general public has a bad habit of trying to rant about a subject to which they are factually challenged.  They should practice opening their mouth BEFORE inserting foot! LOL

Thanks Wasabi, just trying to get the facts out. There is way too much misinformation and assumption. I just drive my bus, and have a little P/T side job to help with the bills..and keep busy. :)

Most if you people do not know what we bus drivers and attendants go through day in and day out. we deal with it all and it is not just about driving them to school. we are there to make sure they get to school and home safe. you haters need to know that if we do walk out it is to take a stand to show the school broad that we are not going to let them take away the benefits that we all need to take care of our children and other family members as well as are self. so I am asking you to stop being so mean. As for the teachers aids and special need teachers my son is a special needs child with A IEP in the school system and IF it we not foe his special needs teacher he would not be were he is today. so think about what we deal with and think about the stress we have before you go and say nasty things about us. give us a break and blame the county for money spent on stuff they do not to to spend it on and we would not have this problem, and tell the to get rid of the attendants do not do there job and how can not be at work on time.

Thank you and thank you for the research. If 1/2 the parents would pay their share we could save 960,000.00 a month. I don’t know who else West bus works for but she’s wonderful!

I called Admin. in Ashburn and spoke to the Information Office. The Chairman of the Board earns 22k, and the other members earn 20k. As I mentioned before all may receive benefits if they desire. Any questions you have can usually be answered by speaking to The Information Office, since it’s all public record.

I can’t speak to salary for the Board Members, but I do know they as PART TIME employees may receive our benefits, if they desire. They all have other jobs with benefits as well. The protocol is if one is eligible, all must be.

lol ditto on the crap attendents! i think they tell them in trainingit is mandatory to sleepand know how to text. My friend says her attenednt does it alot. LOL!

I’d be curious to know how much the board memebers make and if they are offered benefits as well?

$$$ to burn, we do receive performance reviews, and there are people who don’t get the raises as a result. Some are also terminated because of their inability to correct the problems…much the same as any office or business is run. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that everyone who works in the LCPS Family is a stellar or even good employee…I’d be lying. The fact remains the majority of us truly are, and really do care. Then again, isn’t that the way it works in any business or company? Don’t you have a co-worker who never seems to pull their weight? I worked in the private sector ‘real job’ arena for 30 years before deciding to drive a bus, there were always a handful of people who avoided work like the plague! ;)

@ West bus
When I said $45 k I was referrng to the teachers who where complaining in the blogs that it was “not possible” to live on that sort of pauper’s wage. you proved my point quite well.

If you are contractually obligated to pay the same wage scale to everyone, how do you know you will only hire “the best?”  and what do you do when you have someone who is not “the best.”

Loudoun has some great teachers and soem great bus drivers.  Loudoun also has some not-so-great teachers and not-so-great bus drivers.  There should be some way to differentiate and reward these excellent employees.  And some way to fix the latter.  That would be the the most efficient way, not simply by ratcheting up wages and benefits above market rates to attract “the best.”  I guess its an unfamiliar argument within the public sector.

I did some investigating and discovered that there are school districts out there who are charging parents for school bus service. The Keller area of Dallas charges $185 a semester, 135 for the second child, and 100 for children who receive free lunch. Central Indiana (Franklin Township charges $475 a year, and $405 for each additional child. Paso Robles CA. has round trip and one way rates. Respectively, they are: $180/$90 for the first child. $120/$60 for the second, and $60/$30 for the third. They do give you a break if you have 4 or more though, as they get to ride free. Be careful what you wish for. It’s a pay it now, or pay it later kindof thing.

Hamilton, LMFAO…yeah, right.  LCPS keeps the crappy employees because they are so hard up for help!  Contrary to the popular belief of the general public, no one is beating the doors down to obtain a job as a bus driver or an attendant.  Personally, I know 5 special needs west and out of county drivers who have - or have had - attendants who should have been fired a loooong time ago.

@Hamilton   Well said!!  That would be a great starting place to save $$$.  Some of the attendants have been getting away with this for too long.  Maybe someday the appropriate personnel will get a clue!

Loudoun got money to burn, et all who are demeaning the LCPS employees:
You make it sound like the LCPS employees are somehow stealing from taxpayers because they are paid for their work! Wake up people - even people who work for the public school or the county government must be paid for their work! Pay and benefits are driven by economic indicators.  We don’t live in a bubble here.  Any employer who wants to attract and retain the best possible employees (which in itself is efficient) has to offer competitive salary and benefit packages. The other counties in the DC metro area offer similar packages, Loudoun must compete with this.

Why do I want the best possible person transporting my children and your children to school? Because our children are precious, priceless treasures. If you can’t see that we must provide for best practices in ensuring the safety of our children, I feel very sorry for you. Offer below market pay and benefits and you will not attract the best for the job.

Some here have stated that the classified jobs are low skill jobs. Not true. You are showing your ignorance. But, that is a huge factor in this latest storm.  Many people have negative opinions and they only have a PART of the picture. In addition to the skills and training necessary to do the jobs, the positions have a variety of environmental and emotional issues that cause wear and tear on the employees’ health and well being.

Oops, it was $$$ to burn…my bad!

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