DeKalb Schools: Sickout’s second day sees more bus drivers delivering students

A sickout staged by DeKalb County School District bus drivers resulted in transportation delays for the second day Friday.

About 224 bus drivers were absent Friday, compared to 383 who were absent Thursday, according to an absentee report received by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution from the school system.

Andre Riley, a schools spokesman, said there were 30 minute to hour delays in getting some students to school. Afternoon delays are also expected.

The system is using its pool of substitute drivers and also Decatur City School substitute drivers to try fill the empty driver’s seats and get students transported.

Parents on social media Friday morning complained about late buses and, again, no buses at all.

The sickout continued Friday despite warning shots from Superintendent Steve Green that all participating drivers would face consequences. He fired seven drivers Thursday for their roles in the demonstration.

He warned others they will need to produce a doctor’s note when they return to work.

The sickout was organized by some to emphasize their unhappiness with pay and benefits. It has been an ongoing issue in the county, but this is the first time it has bubbled up into such decisive action.

One of the fired drivers, Marion Payne, said three DeKalb County Schools police officers delivered a termination letter to his Stone Mountain home Thursday evening. It said the district received “reliable” information that he encouraged the sickout.

Payne, a driver for five years, said he passed out flyers for the sickout, mostly because he’s standing up for what is right.

“I’m a veteran,” he said. “I’m concerned for all the senior (drivers) ... retiring and getting $210 or $215 a month. But you know how it is, when they think you pose a threat.”

The drivers, who missed work Thursday citing sicknesses, said they received calls from a man representing the district at the end of the day.

“It was not a reason given for termination,” said Melanie Douglas, who has been a bus driver for 12 years. “He just told me Dr. Green has terminated your job. I’ve been out one day. You’re going to terminate my job with no rhyme or reason?”

Douglas said she felt she and others were targeted for speaking out at a meeting Tuesday between Green and about 400 drivers.

“Because we have so much mouth on us,” she said, “they want us gone.”

Bus drivers in DeKalb County make about $19,000 a year.