Home School News Brick School Board To Reconsider Bus Driver Layoff Plan

Brick School Board To Reconsider Bus Driver Layoff Plan

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Protest signs carried into a Board of Education meeting by Brick Township bus drivers. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
Protest signs carried into a Board of Education meeting by Brick Township bus drivers. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

The Brick Township school board voted Thursday night to delay a plan to lay off 26 school bus drivers during a meeting that lasted more than six hours into early Friday morning.

One-by-one, school bus drivers and union leaders addressed the board, describing a chaotic working environment and severe management issues that visibly took board members by surprise, culminating in the vote to delay the layoffs while policies in the Transportation Department can be reviewed and additional negotiations can be undertaken with the Transport Workers Union, which represents the drivers.

Putting off the layoffs could backfire, however, if the district does not find a way to save more than $400,000 since the district has already adopted its budget for the 2015-16 school year, which factored in savings based on the layoffs.

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The board “anticipated those cost savings,” said board attorney Jack Sahradnik. “One of the issues you have is, if the decision is not to go forward with a reduction in force, then you’re going to have to look at where you’re going to come up with the money to fund it. At some point during the course of the year, if money is not available, you’re going to run out of money for your transportation services.”

Brick has budgeted $8,048,580 for transportation services for next school year, a reduction of $437,659 from the 2014-15 school year. The savings through layoffs would be achieved primarily by reducing health benefits costs rather than salaries. While school bus drivers main earn about $25,000 per year, they are entitled to what is widely considered a generous health care benefits package.

A packed house at the May 28, 2015 Brick Board of Education meeting. (Photo: Daniel Nee)
A packed house at the May 28, 2015 Brick Board of Education meeting. (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Bus drivers made a forceful showing at the meeting, packing the auditorium at Brick Township High School and detailing inefficiencies stemming from dispatching to a lack of substitute bus drivers. Most of all, the drivers spoke of how much they care for the children of the township and the sense of community they say would be lost if the township were to privatize its routes.

Drivers carried signs that read, “Keep Our Children Safe, Keep Our Tax Dollars Here,” and “Privatization Works for Profit, Public Employees Work For You!” Another sign said, “Where’s Your Friend the Bus Driver? I Don’t Know, Mommy.”

District officials, however, clarified their layoff plan and said they would not be privatizing transportation service. The reduction in force would not mean the drivers would have to be replaced – new routing would allow a smaller number of drivers to efficiently bring children to and from school.

The plan to lay off drivers was conceived after the district commissioned a report from Transportation Advisory Services, a New York consulting firm, to review the department.

“One of the things they said needed to be addressed was ridership and that we weren’t efficient in it,” explained Interim Superintendent Richard Caldes. “It had been a long time since those routes had been looked at.”

That fact, combined with declining enrollment in the district, resulted in the plan. Board members also said there were reports of rampant absenteeism among drivers, though the drivers themselves disputed that allegation and said the district was relying too heavily on part-time “cover drivers” who sometimes show up for work and sometimes do not.

Board member Susan Suter said she declined to even vote on the 2015-16 budget because she did not have enough information on the document, including transportation issues. Board member John Barton also said he was unaware of the layoffs, which were listed deep within the 932 page budget document.

That led board member Michael Conti to make the motion to put off the layoffs for two weeks while the entire issue can be re-examined.

“I think we should take a measured approach to this, especially with all that has been going on in the district,” Conti said, adding that the arrest of former superintendent Walter Uszenski led him to question the layoff recommendation, which came from the former schools chief.

“I think this was an ill-conceived plan from the start,” said John Menshon, president of Transport Workers Union Local 225 Branch 4, which represents the drivers. “We even heard board members say that they were surprised, and they didn’t know these cuts were hidden somewhere in the budget. Nobody had discussions with us, we were blindsided with this.”

Ann Morgan, a driver in the district, said there are six bus runs per day that have no drivers even assigned , meaning the work must be split up between other drivers.

“Then people retired, and they never replaced them,” Morgan said. “How much can we do? We’re doing two and three runs a day.”

“We grew up with our bus drivers. We’ve known them since elementary school,” said Taylor Baile, a junior at Brick Memorial High School. “They’re not only our drivers, but in a sense they’re our friends. They’re the first people we see in the morning and the last people we see in the afternoon. They’re not only our drivers but our neighbors.”

Board President Sharon Cantillo said the goal of the board was to avoid a tax increase for the 2015-16 school year without cutting programs for students. Data she and other board members received indicated a significantly absenteeism issue in the department, Cantillo said.

“If every driver came to work, we could cut at least 29 drivers,” Cantillo said, referring to the report.

There may be room for negotiation and savings while limiting layoffs, said James Edwards, the district’s business administrator.

What was originally a plan to lay off 31 drivers has already been reduced to 26, he said, and if the district’s in-house drivers can make runs to private and county schools at a cheaper rate than services provided by the Monmouth-Ocean Educational Services Commission, another seven jobs would be saved, reducing the number of layoffs to 19. Edwards said the district is required by law to inquire as to whether MOESC can provide transportation services at a lower rate.

Still, the district must account for the reduction in the transportation budget.

“Every time slot during the day, there are anywhere between 19 and 20 covers, where drivers do not have specific assignments,” Edwards said. “If you look at that in a consolidation effort, at any time during the day we have 19 to 20 drivers being paid for full-time substituting.”

Cantillo said district officials are planning to meet again with the TWU next Wednesday to continue negotiations and attempt to avert layoffs. Regardless, officials said, the district’s busing will remain in-house.

“We’re not going out to a public bid advertising privatization,” Edwards said.

The vote to delay the layoff plan was approved unanimously by the board.


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  • Joseph Woolston Brick

    This article really opened my eyes. School bus drivers in Brick make only $25,000 a year? Really? That’s almost as bad as working for Walmart, except for their benefits package. Is that top pay? Do the drivers have other jobs as well, who can live on $25,000 a year? Bus drivers become part of the school fabric as much as teachers do. I remember my bus driver who drove me back and forth for almost my whole entire school career. Mr. Nunziato, he was a no nonsense, your not doing that on my bus type of guy, who got us to school safely and on time every day, day after day, year after year. Mr.Nunziato didn’t yell or scream, if shenanigans were going on, he’d pull the bus over, he’d calmly walk to the offenders and give them the Nunziato look and that’s all he needed to do. That was 44 years ago and I still remember that. He was one of the first to hook up an old car radio in the bus and play 77 WABC and Herb Oscar Andersen and the tunes of the day on the way to school. If the drivers today make only $25,000 a year, what the hell did Mr. Nunziato make 44 years ago? That seems to be such a low figure considering the precious cargo they are carrying, our kids.

    • JW

      That does seem low, but they also get summers off, ie they aren’t working 3 months a year, and school holidays. I agree a pay raise is in order, even if the department is overstaffed and needs layoffs. I think more kids should be walking to school anyway. Wages are depressed in this country for the worker bees, while fatcats like the administrators rake in a few hundred grand a year and retire with lavish golden parachutes.

      • ttstorm69

        there are actually alot of drivers who work during the summer also, and get paid less then they get paid during the school yr. and they even have to wait to get paid, we actually still have drivers that worked last summer and still haven’t gotten paid for all their hrs.

      • Frank Rizzo

        When you and the other liberals can give absolution from law suits then more kids will walk to school. Until then we have to protect the kids from danger and the town from these lawsuits. Talk to your liberal friends in office and see how we can make people more self reliant and more responsible for their own actions instead of making excuses for them all the time.

      • JW

        Someone else is always to blame for something in your world. It’s never your absurd joke of a worldview that’s wrong. You’re the spendthrift liberal here- you want to chaufeur kids all over town when they could just as easily walk with less smoke belching from hulking buses and kids sitting to get fat http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/27/world/europe/27bus.html?_r=0

      • Frank Rizzo

        For every action…there is a re-action….someone Is always to blame for everything that happens in life.

      • JW

        You sound like a crude caricature of a trial lawyer- and I know trial lawyers too well. Even Rush Limbaugh couldn’t skewer them half as bad as that.

      • Joseph Woolston Brick

        I was talking to somebody who is a school bus driver, they informed me that a majority of the school bus drivers are female, I find that interesting and something I didn’t know, could this be why the pay is so low? Back in the day when I went to school, there was not one female bus driver. They also stated there were many retirees supplementing their Social Security incomes as well which is another fact I didn’t know. I may now understand why the pay is so low.

      • JW

        I do know a retired but under 65 union carpenter that drives the bus in Wall sometimes for a little cash to supplement the pension. It isn’t the most difficult line of work to get into if you have the right driving license, so that keeps the rate of pay low as well.

    • DennyD
  • ttstorm69

    joe you’re right, this is the only district that I know of that pays you 14.54 as a sub driver then when you’re hired as a contracted driver you get bumped down to 12.92 or 12.96 an hr. cause they tell us cause we now get benefits, sick time,holiday pay, when you have to be a 6 hr driver to even get benefits just for the driver and we also pay into our benefits, so if you’re a 5 hr. driver you only receive sick time, personal time, and holiday pay no benefits. so this yr. they started paying the 5 hr. drivers, 17.00 an hr. to make up for no benefits. but yet drivers that have been here 5 yr. are only making 13.28 an hr. but because they’re 6 and 8 hrs. drivers that’s what they get, there’s drivers that been there 17yrs. and they’re just making 15.00 and change. it’s sad. when we’re the lowest paid drivers in ocean county and this is one of the reasons why we can’t keep drivers they come to brick get trained and leave due to pay and poor management. But alot of drivers do have partime jobs after they have driven their runs for the day. I know if anything God forbid happened to my husband I would never be able to afford my mortgage unless i did get another job, there’s thing in the schools we can cut to save money like the surround sound system they wanna redo in the classrooms if a child is hearing impaired then they should sit up front, just like if we couldn’t see the board from the back we sat up front. alot of teachers don’t even use it. also our phone system does not need to be redone. they just did it 2 yrs ago.also they’re our positions that people are getting paid way to much money for.and position that are made up so someones friend could have a job then pay them a crazy amount to do it. it’ just a mess.

  • Glenn

    Nothing against the drivers, but,

    The plan to lay off drivers was conceived after the district commissioned a report from Transportation Advisory Services, a New York consulting firm, to review the department.

    “One of the things they said needed to be addressed was ridership and that we weren’t efficient in it,” explained Interim Superintendent Richard Caldes. “It had been a long time since those routes had been looked at.”
    I’ve lived in Brick for 12 years and have never seen a full school bus. Many many times I’ve sat at the red light at Old Hooper & Mantaloking Rd and watch 6-8 nearly empty school buses driving by.
    Perhaps we should take a much deeper look into how efficient our bus routes really are mapped.

    • ttstorm69

      you don’t really understand while there maybe be some runs that can be combined, alot of run have full buses and some buses are the rest of the kids that can’t fit. also you have to take into consideration the time these students need to be into school if you fit 2 bus loads of kids on 1 bus to fit 52 to 54 kids on a bus the runs will take longer which means students could be late for school, and come home much later. Parents need to get to work weather in the morning or in the afternoon. so there’s all things to consider.also you’re not looking at kids missing buses, having to be in school early for something and parents just taken their children into school instead of using the buses they pay for out of their taxes, children staying after for athletics, and other after school activities. so if you really don’t understand and look at everything i can understand how people may think this. and that’s ok, if you don’t work in that department you’re not expected to know. cause I didn’t know till i became a driver, then it all made sense.

      • Glenn

        The plan to lay off drivers was conceived after the district commissioned a report from Transportation Advisory Services, a New York consulting firm, to review the department.

        “One of the things they said needed to be addressed was ridership and that we weren’t efficient in it,” explained Interim Superintendent Richard Caldes. “It had been a long time since those routes had been looked at.”

      • ttstorm69

        yes but again they’re asking a new york company to look at this do you realize that most of NY kids walk to school or have to take public busing, so now their kids are on a bus with strangers? would you wanna worry about who’s on the bus with your kids or your families kids? I know i wouldn’t.

      • Glenn

        So if it were a NJ company that came to the same conclusion, you would change sides of the argument. They said it was a NY company, not a NYC company.

      • ttstorm69

        no cause i know what it is to be a bus driver and i know how things run. a company is paid to do what you want even if it’s right or wrong. so there’s some more waisted money. instead of driving with drivers to see how their day is or how their runs work and why they work the way they do.

      • Glenn

        So it’s all politics? What about the TWU?

      • ttstorm69

        yes. Twu has been fighting with them on alot of issues. but unfortunately corruption seems to have something to do with things and it’s always been like that no matter where it is. ans the waiste of money on things not needed.

    • busdriver

      If you don’t follow the bus for it’s entire route you can’t actually say it’s not entirely full. Also , yes, there are busses that are not entirely filled. Busses that have to go over the Mantoloking bridge May not be filled to capacity because those runs take longer. 45 minutes for the most part. Also vocational school busses going out of town. Again, you have to transport them to Jackson, Tom’s river, Waretown, Lakehurst. They take a long time and they go at different times of day, come back at differing times. How would you condense that type of run? You can’t. And the Catholic schools. Those runs take a long time because the children are not from one neighbourhood. They are spread out. In the morning drivers bring in on average four different schools. These schools open approximately a half hour of each other. There’s no time,or even room, to condense busses there. And a lot of students only use a bus part of the week, not every day. You can’t take their seat away from them. It still has to be there for them when they need it. There are approximately 10,000 students in this township. Divide that into 114 drivers, taking about 15 out because they drive special needs busses. We have 2 high schools,2 middle schools and 7 elementary schools. The math does not work out in the transportation world if you take 31 drivers away and make the next 21 part time. It doesn’t work as it stands, because the board isn’t hiring on to the 15 or so runs that are vacant with no driver assigned to it. You can’t rely on substitutes to show up every day, they don’t have to. They’re taking a sub position for a reason,one being So they can work when they want to. There is so much more involved than people who aren’t working in transportation realize. And this year has been the worst ever. If the “true” absenteeism rate hasn’t changed ask yourself what really has changed in the past two years? Btw this whole thing was put into place by Uzenski,not Caldes.

  • WageSlave

    Has anyone researched the salaries of the rest of the BOE? Do any of those people have 2nd jobs or superfluous/no-show positions that could be more efficiently eliminated (along with their benefits packages) to more easily achieve the savings required under this budget?

    Also – seeing as how the budget was approved by someone who has since been exposed for fraud (while I’m sure the rest of these people are good, upstanding citizens) – shouldn’t the entire thing be reviewed and amended to find these savings?

    It’s no secret to anyone that our local government is rotten to the core – full of positions filled through nepotism and political connections. Here are probably some of the ONLY jobs where an average, non-connected person could find employment and now they want to eliminate them? Surely there are sweeping cuts that could be made all over this town that nobody would even notice to make up for these shortfalls where they matter. Enough is enough already. These people need to understand that we, the taxpayers, are their supervisors and managers. They MUST answer upward to US – not dictate down to us. If anyone else turns in a bad budget at work, they will be held to account. It should be no different in this case. It’s time we start holding these people to account for their corruption up to and including holding THEIR jobs in the balance. Disband the board and start over if that’s what it takes. Enough of this protesting via the ballot box. These people are all in bed with each other and will only ever tow the line no matter who is in office. They are not our friends. It’s time we stop treating them like they are. They’re our employees. Bad employees should be fired. Under no circumstances should our children lose out on essential services while those at the top feel none of the pain.
    While I’m not exactly happy that there seem to be sick-outs going on since this was announced – I understand the point the drivers are trying to make. However – to the drivers and the union I would say that your argument about how much you care about our kids rings a little hollow when you decide to screw up their mornings and afternoons in order to make your point. You’re not going to find any allies among the people by holding us hostage. Don’t protest corruption by being corrupt yourselves. There’s plenty of stuff I don’t like at my own job – but I show up. You should do the same.

    • Janet

      @Wage Slave….I agree with your comments; well said. The BOE members aren’t paid a salary (and, unfortunately, that’s why it’s a stepping stone for greener pastures in higher office). The members do receive health benefits. As far as pensions, there is a certain ## of years of public service needed before the individual is eligible for those benefits. BTW, why not a survey of other districts similar to Brick (in Ocean and Southern Monmouth Counties) to compare the bus driver’s salaries and make adjustments???

      • WageSlave

        Thanks for the correction, @JanetX1Y2Z3:disqus. I wasn’t aware that they don’t get paid although I was vaguely aware that the BOE was the first step to higher office in Brick.
        I agree – a look/comparison to other towns where the system is “working” might be a good first step in looking at this issue.

      • To reiterate, BOE members are neither paid nor do they receive any benefits whatsoever.

      • Janet – The BOE members do not receive health benefits (nor are they paid). Township council members are eligible for health benefits if they choose.

    • ttstorm69

      you do make some good points but you’re not understandding that the drivers work around kids all day everyday, and we get sick more often then other people, we have sick days and personal days that we are aloud to use, but it doesn’t help when right from the beginning of the yr we were already short 3 drivers for buses, so now those runs need to be covered everyday, then we had people quit due to not making enough money here then we had people retire, so now we’re up to 5 or 6 runs that don’t have drivers on those buses at all, so right there you’re already talking we’re covering 30 to 50 runs aday just for those drivers. then we have 3 or 4 people out on workmans comp. so that’s another 18 to 24 runs, so i’m up to 48 to 74 runs just in almost 10 runs that have noone on them, then we have a driver out on surgery, that’s another 4 runs. we have people out on family leave so another 10 to 24 runs. we’re already up to between 58 and 98 runs aday we’re covering, now there’s days the office will give 3 to 6 people their personal days in one day so now that’s another 18 to 40 runs there now i’m up to 76 to 138 runs to cover in one day, so our sick CALL OUTS range from 3 to 4 people aday. so now there’s another 18 to 24 runs to cover, 94 to 162 runs just in one day, so we range from 12 to 24 bus runs aday that we cover.and we have drivers taken off their runs to cover other buses so now their runs have to be covered, it just goes in one big circle. So we can all understand how people don’t understand how things work if you don’t work in this department, but trust me it’s not that easy. Us bus drivers will always have eachothers backs and make sure that kids are picked up and to go school or brought home.

      • WageSlave

        @ttstorm69:disqus … from the perspective you provide here I can absolutely understand the situation you describe. However – I happen to work in a very large industry that employs over 800 regular employees plus a huge number of contractors on top of that. And the abuse of “sick time” – especially of the long-term variety – is ridiculous. And there is no doubt in my mind that it’s no different in your job – although I don’t expect you to comment on that here since you have a personal stake in the situation.
        No differently than where I work – it seems you have plenty of people to cover the job, but an inordinate amount of them don’t come to work because of – exactly as you said – family leave, long term medical issues, etc. Oddly enough – in industries where those kinds of options aren’t available, we don’t see nearly the number of people doing those things because they’d lose their jobs if they did.
        People should not fraudulently take advantage of those systems – and I don’t have a lot of respect or sympathy for people who do. This isn’t to say that SOME people don’t have legitimate issues from time to time – but it always seems like those issues magically disappear or get corrected when people reach the “full pay” threshold of time-off. The people who truly suffer for that kind of behavior are the people who actually DO show up to work, and – in this case – the taxpayers.
        So if that many people are regularly out sick – it’s not hard to see the board’s frustration with that. And by no means does that absolve the board, in my mind, from the skeptical view I have of their solutions. Let’s face it – one busted for fraud, one ‘s criminal history was somehow ‘overlooked’ … every one of those people is corrupt. We shouldn’t trust them at all.
        The bottom line is this – the taxpayers should not suffer because of bloat, inefficiencies and outright lies by the people on the board. Anyone who doesn’t have a good enough work ethic to do their jobs honestly and in the best way possible doesn’t deserve our sympathy or understanding. They deserve to be fired and replaced by someone who WILL do the job correctly. And that goes for both sides.

      • ttstorm69

        agree. and i wanna know why caldes needs to be paid 683.00 aday? i am definetly on the wrong side of the fence here.

    • As someone pointed out already, the board members are not paid. But the superintendent and the dozens and dozens of administrators are. Quite well, actually.

      http://goo.gl/JoHzI2 Superintendent Contract
      http://goo.gl/wc7uwG Tenure Admins
      http://goo.gl/Dv2Qvg Non-tenure Admins

  • Adicia

    I heard the consult. report actually said trans. was short handed and they recommended hiring more drivers. Why in world would they fire 31?

  • Frank Rizzo

    District employed bus drivers is a good thing for everyone. Our kids have a stable workforce looking out for them, and locals have jobs. There will be no savings or tax relief by doing this.

  • All these articles today about the bus drivers it’s interesting there isn’t a peep about the 12% pay cut the board handed down to the substitute teachers. The substitute teachers make much less than the bus drivers to begin with and they actually spend classroom time with our children. This will lead to no subs for absent teachers and our kids having instructional disruptions.

  • Frank Rizzo

    OBAMA…the gift that keeps on giving. Anyone who works 30 hours a week MUST have benefits as we with the six hour a day drivers…six times five equals bennies. Cost rise…guess who is in the chopping block….just like the fast food workers who will soon be replaced by the WAWA like kiosks and computer screen order system instead of earning the 15.00 an hour you liberals want to pay them.

  • Nellieemd

    Not good to hire outside bus companies!!!! Parents want to make sure that bus drivers go through the proper criminal screening that is required by the State of NJ to work for local school districts , private companies just request driving records. Drivers would be different all the time and it might seem like it’s cost effective to the Board but in the long run it isn’t!!! It will cost the Board more $$$!! Save the bus drivers!!!!!

  • Frank Rizzo

    Is any of this related to Obama care and the thirty hour rule for benefits.