By Lonnie Ross
On the morning that over 100 Jackson Public School (JPS) bus drivers returned to work after a strike, JPS Superintendent Dr. Cedrick Gray held a press conference to announce new initiatives for improving transportation operations.
The bus driver work strike began Dec. 4 and ended, after 8 days, on Monday morning, Dec. 16. Bus drivers decided to end the strike, even though their demands had not been met. They wanted better working conditions, better wages and more discipline on the bus.
Prior to ending the strike, the drivers had a meeting with Gray at Powell Middle School Friday, Dec. 13, to discuss their grievances. Drivers voiced their concerns with pay, student behavior, bus repairs, and their personal safety. JPS personnel from the transportation, finance, legal, and human resources departments were also in attendance to assist with employee questions.
At that meeting, Gray outlined a new accountability plan that involves a commitment between parents, students, and school administrators to ensure the safety of bus drivers while transporting students. He also explained the financial solvency of the school district which includes a new salary scale that will take effect July 2014.
At Monday’s press conference, Gray said that he rode “shotgun” on the bus of a driver he identified as “Ms. Gray” that morning. He thanked parents and the community for their patience during the bus strike. He also thanked the bus drivers for returning to work.
Gray said that he wanted to address operational conditions that the recent bus driver protest brought to his attention through three action items:
1. Form a “Superintendent Advisory Counsel” for the operations division including transportation
2. Identify efficiencies across JPS operations and school departments
3. Launch a special internal audit on operations including the transportation department.
“These actions will help us verify many of the issues that were brought to my attention and if needed, provide mechanisms for corrective action,” Gray said.
He said that they will continue to review the system to make sure it will have improved management.