EUCLID -- In a seemingly swift and controversial move, the Euclid School Board voted 3-1 Monday night, to privatize the district's bus services, effective immediately.
All 75 jobs in the district's transportation department are eliminated, which include bus drivers, bus aides, and mechanics.
It was standing room only at a special meeting of the school board to discuss what workers called a bombshell: Employees received a letter last Friday announcing the district's plans to outsource bus services to a private, Cincinnati-based company called, First Student.
The drivers' union had failed to reach an agreement with the district on a new contract, after its last collective bargaining agreement ended July 31.
"I am shocked that you would treat people who worked for 25 years, and throw them out with a couple of days' notice," declared bus driver, Debbie Morris, to board members."
School leaders say the 5-year contract with First Student will lead to an annual savings of up to $580,000 for the district.
Board members blamed insufficient state funding, for their financial struggles.
Tuesday afternoon, district officials released a statement:
"In January of 2012 busing was cut to the state minimum for financial reasons. Since then, Euclid City Schools' has been exploring options for ways to continue fiscal responsibility and serve our students to the best of our ability. The Euclid City Schools' board broached the topic of privatization in work sessions that were open to the public in June. Over the past three years, Euclid City Schools' has averaged approximately $140,000 in sick and personal time to bus drivers. These absences resulted in sacrificing student programing in way of extra-curricular and field trips."
"At last nights' special meeting of the Euclid Board of Education there was a 3- to- 1 vote to contract transportation services with First Student, a nationally recognized transportation company based in Cincinnati, Ohio. 65 of the 75 transportation department employees were represented this morning at Bluestone Elementary School to begin the application process with First Student. Benefits will be available for drivers through First Student and drivers will realize advantages that would have been unavailable to them had they remained Euclid School District Employees. With the contracting of First Student, we can now provide our students with the most up-to-date safety technology, including real-time GPS tracking for every bus in the fleet, as well as additional measures to ensure the safety of all of our transported students."
"We feel this option is the best for our kids, the best for the community, and the best for our drivers. We will have a smooth transition and consistency of service will be maintained."
Last November, voters narrowly passed a school levy by 19 votes. Board President Kay Van Ho says the levy revenue only covers the loss of state funding, but nothing more.
Workers will have to apply for their same jobs with First Student. School officials say the district's contract requires the company to consider newly terminated employees.
However, it's uncertain just how many workers will be hired.
"It's kind of a crap shoot now," said driver Lisa Tramsak. "Am I going to have a job with First Student?"
"I hope so. I hope so, " she said.