The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

November 23, 2012

Concerns voiced over bus driving mandate

Staff Writer

TARBORO — A teacher assistant and a custodian addressed the Edgecombe County Board of Education at its Monday evening meeting, both expressing concerns they will have to drive a school bus or face losing their job.

“In the letter we received it’s quite clear, her job was in jeopardy if she did not get her bus license,” said James Abrams, husband of Ramona Abrams, a teacher assistant at G.W. Carver Elementary School.

The letter was sent out to teacher assistants, custodians and food services employees on Oct. 10, reminding them of a requirement to get their license to drive a school bus, and informing them of an upcoming opportunity to do so. Employees hired before 1994, like Ramona Abrams, have one year to get their license, according to a policy that the school board revised on June 11.  

Ramona Abrams told the board she loves being an assistant at Carver but does not feel comfortable driving a bus and feels it is beyond the scope of her job description.

“I do feel that I’m not capable of driving a vehicle that large. I don’t want to,” Abrams said.  “I’ve been with the school system for 29 years and I would like to continue to be an assistant at Carver School. I love my kids, I love my coworkers, my principals, and I just wish that you would reconsider me being able to keep my job without getting a bus license.”

James Abrams told the board he “honestly cannot see how you can make a person that does not want to drive a bus drive one.”

“If you can’t find someone who wants to drive a bus, you’re in bad shape,” Abrams said. “There are people out here who want jobs. She has a job. She does an outstanding job at Carver, but yet she has a chance of losing her job because she does not choose or want to drive a bus? No, that’s not the American way.”

Donnie Atkinson, a custodian at G.W. Carver Elementary School, also addressed the board. A former school bus driver and long-term employee of the county school system, Atkinson said his health now prevents him from driving a bus.

“The doctors from the DMV examined me and told me that I couldn’t drive a commercial vehicle, no big school bus, because I was injecting needles for my diabetes,” Atkinson said. “It ain’t because I don’t want to drive a bus. I’d love to drive a bus, but…the DMV has stopped me from driving buses.”

Atkinson told the board he was voicing his comments because he wants to retire from the school system. The board’s current policy states that being medically waived from driving a school bus “will not ensure continued employment in an assigned area.” In other words, Atkinson’s job may be in jeopardy because of his inability to drive a bus.