Looking Back on the Transition

By: Laura Gibbs
By: Laura Gibbs

District 205 is considering outsourcing bus drivers, maintenance workers and food service staff. This time last year the Belvidere school district was debating the same issue and chose to privatize the Transportation Department.

The same concerns like wages, no union and benefits is what worried 80 Belvidere school district drivers a year ago.

For 21 years, Linda Baier has been a bus driver. Linda says, "We lost our pension and vacation days, but we get other benefits. I do feel like we gained in other ways."

Since Jones Transportation took over, about 98 percent of existing drivers are still employed. In fact, the Transportation Department has extra office support staff and 12 new routes are driven daily.

Currently, Belvidere buses are housed in four different facilities, but with the new management comes a brand new terminal. This new facility was part of the deal the district and Jones Transportation agreed on.

Inside is a driver’s dream since there is a place to stop between routes and bathrooms. These are both amenities that drivers did not have at their old terminals, but it's the moral that experienced drivers say has been the biggest benefit to come out of the transition.

Thirteen-year driver Phyllis Morgan says, "I see a lot less turmoil. Before there were always changes taking place."

Drivers advise that District 205 do the research to make sure going private isn't just an easy answer to budget woes.

The Rockford school district will stop accepting bids Tuesday. From there, Superintendent Dr. Dennis Thompson says he will decide if he wants the school board to consider an offer.


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