STANLY COUNTY, N.C. — Several bus drivers in Stanly County protested Monday, advocating for better pay. They're calling for minimum pay to be raised to $16 an hour and would like COVID-19 hazard pay, as well as bus monitors on every bus.
Bus drivers gathered Monday morning and again Monday afternoon to protest. Bus drivers attended the protest instead of going on their usual routes transporting students to and from school -- all to make a point that Stanly County Schools needs its bus drivers.
The protests led schools and parents alike to scramble for transportation for students.
Tiffany Polk has two kids who normally ride the bus. She and other parents had to quickly figure out other ways to get their kids to school.
“You got kids that can’t afford to be out of school, miss any class time," Polk said. "You got kids whose mom and dads don’t have cars. What are these kids going to do? Are y’all offering to pick any of these kids up?”
Polk said she sees why the bus drivers would want to make their message clear during the school day, but that parents like her were caught in the crossfire.
“My message to the parents is I’m sorry that I had to do this, and I’m sorry it had to come to this," Kimberly Carpenter, who has been a bus driver for 23 years, said. “I still have to live, and this is my job. This is my career, and I’m not getting compensated enough for it.”
Bus drivers told WCNC Charlotte they want to keep driving students in this district, but they need more money to keep doing it in Stanly County.
"We're not being greedy," Ashley Garner, a bus driver for more than 10 years, said. "We're at $13.07. We're had our meeting yesterday at Dunkin' Donuts. They said they could offer us $17 starting there making donuts. So why would we continue to endanger our life like we're doing? We need to be reciprocated."
It's an issue Wake County Public Schools is also dealing with. Dozens of bus drivers in Wake County have been participating in a sick-out going on two days for better pay.
Bus drivers in Stanly County are asking for more to keep driving in their own community.
"We don't want to have to leave, but you're pushing us that way," Garner said.
Bus drivers said they are also advocating for the rights of all classified workers within the district, including cafeteria workers, janitors, and more.
Bus drivers told WCNC Charlotte they will keep doing this as long as they need to and plan to be at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday.
Tuesday evening, Stanly County Superintendent Jarrow Dennis provided the following statement to WCNC Charlotte:
"Stanly County Schools recognizes the impact that COVID-19 has had on our staff. We are working on developing ways to recognize and reward our employees for their continued efforts through the pandemic, including salary increases and monetary incentives. However, this takes time to develop, and it will not happen overnight. Currently, we are experiencing disruptions in transportation that are impacting families, children, and classrooms across the district. We hope that staff will pull together to resolve these disruptions, and provide normality for our students whose education has already been disrupted by the pandemic. We value all of our employees, and continue to work on ways to recognize their hard work and dedication."