Cumberland County school leaders set emergency meeting to discuss bus driver pay

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — Following days of school bus driver protests, the Cumberland County School Board will hold an emergency meeting Wednesday to address concerns over low pay.

According to the agenda, “The purpose of the meeting is in response to recent employee compensation and working condition concerns and to address additional recruitment and retention employee bonuses and to update the 2017 Compensation Study.”

Pay for drivers in the Cumberland County Schools district starts at $12.82 an hour.

The emergency meeting comes after dozens of bus drivers organized a county-wide “sick out” protest over their hourly pay. At least 44 school buses didn’t run Monday.

That’s down from 101 buses that didn’t run last Tuesday.

Tashica King is one of the drivers who called out sick. King has been a full-time Cumberland County Schools bus driver for six years and still makes $12.90 an hour.

She sells her plasma every two weeks to get by.

“Myself and some of my coworkers, we have to donate plasma sometimes to get back and forth to work,” King said of what it’s like to live the wages from bus driving. “We have to do what we have to do to make it work.”

According to a pay scale King received from the Cumberland County Schools District in 2018, she should be making at least $13.92 an hour.

“The school tells us every few years your pay rate is supposed to go up, but I’m told there’s a freeze on the pay rate,” King said.

King said drivers can call out three days in a row without having to show a doctor’s note. Some drivers have returned to work out of fear they may be fired.

Others have used up all of their sick days. King said she and several other drivers plan to run their routes on Tuesday, and then call out sick for the rest of the week.

It’s unclear how Wednesday’s emergency meeting will impact that plan.

“If we don’t keep it going, they’re not gonna take us serious,” said King. “They’re gonna think we’re playing games and it’s not a game, this is our livelihood.”

CBS 17 asked the Cumberland County Schools how many students have been absent due to the bus driver protest, but the district didn’t know.

“Some of them, from what I know, are keeping them home, or bringing them in themselves. I do have a lot of parents that work,” said King, who called parents along her route to inform them of the days she would be calling out sick.

A spokesperson for the district said schools are supposed to post assignments online for students who are unable to find a ride to school.

The emergency meeting will be held in the Main Board Room of the Cumberland County Schools Central Services building Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.

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