Members of the Central Regional Bus Drivers' Association and supporters say they will picket at 6 p.m. on Thursday to protest the school board's proposal to go out to bid for transportation services.
The protest will take place at the east gate of Central Regional High School, off Forest Hills Parkway in Bayville.
"Following the picket, the protesters will attend the 7 p.m. general meeting to encourage the board of education to sit down with the Central Regional Bus Drivers Association in good faith," according to a press release from the CRBDA.
CRBDA President Bill Cooley will explain a March 2012 study by the Keystone Research Center that concludes “handing the reins over to the private sector is not always a good bargain for taxpayers.”
"Not only do privatized school bus services often cost more, but a company contracting with a a school district may be less responsive to management and parent concerns than our district employees," the release states.
Business Administrator Kevin O'Shea said recently the board agreed to go out to bid for transportation services, but also stressed that no decision has been made.
"We have been looking at the costs and thought it would be prudent to look at every option available," he said.
District officials have had some preliminary meetings with a company that could outsource labor costs while allowing Central to maintain its bus fleet, O'Shea said.
"At this point, we are looking at all options," he said. "When the bids come in, we will have a better idea of which way we want to go with it."
Central Regional is still in negotiations with the bus drivers' union, Superintendent Triantafillos Parlapanides has said.
"We need information on how much it would cost to privatize and the cost from other districts to be able to negotiate a fair deal for drivers and taxpayers," he said.
The 27 bus drivers received letters on non-renewal from the Board of Education on April 12, according to the release."Nearly all of them live in the district’s community; some nearly 45 years, none less than a decade," the release states. "They have 26 children or grandchildren connected to Central Regional. Together they pay over $85,000 in property taxes and are volunteers who work for community groups such as Girl and Boy Scouts, First Aid Squad, Fire Department, Emergency Management, Neighborhood Watches and VFW Post.
Cutting the bus drivers will hurt the local economy and community spirit," said New Jersey Education Association UniServe representative Meredith Barnes.
“Workers put in fewer hours, take home less money, and wind up seeking government assistance," she said. "Also, these bus drivers are an essential link between schools and the community because they have a vested interest in Central Regional’s population.”
The Board of Education meeting gets underway in the board offices at 7 p.m. on Thursday.