“One is on the agenda to be terminated. I hear another one is on leave until she’s forced to have a mental health evaluation!”
The Livingston Parish School Board has called a special meeting for tonight, Nov. 17, with “probationary employee termination” on the agenda. Amidst this issue, one Livingston Parish bus driver has decided to speak out on behalf of her co-workers.
Senetta Aimee was a bus driver for Livingston Parish for 30 years until her recent retirement. However, Aime still drives part-time primarily due to the chronic understaffing.
Since Aimee has already received her retirement and only works part-time to see her grandchildren and to help her friends who are bus drivers, she said she doesn’t fear possible retaliation for speaking on the issues other drivers cannot openly discuss.
About 21 Livingston Parish school bus drivers went on strike on Oct. 21 to bring light to alleged understaffing and low pay.
Since then, two bus drivers are facing possible consequences for speaking up. One is on the Nov. 17 agenda for a possible termination with sources saying she may have violated the school system’s ‘social media policy for employees’ in a post made to Facebook that spoke negatively about the school board and superintendent.
“Drivers who have spoken out against what they believe are unfair practices, policies, or treatment in the transportation department appear to have a target on their backs! One is on the agenda to be terminated. I hear another one is on leave until she’s forced to have a mental health evaluation! Yet, we have a shortage of drivers,” said District 2 representative on the LPSB, Kellee Hennessy Dickerson. “It goes to show if you speak out against the status quo, get ready for payback! Your career and reputation will be destroyed.”
Aime claims bus drivers are constantly covering the routes of other bus drivers or “breakdowns” yet receiving no extra pay.
“With the shortage of drivers now, you’re pretty much running a breakdown for someone everyday of the week. It isn’t an occasional thing now. It is three to four days of the week,” Aimee said.
In the case of a breakdown, she claims the students are divided among three or four other buses to be taken home, but when the drivers have no extra room, they have to make extra trips back to the school.
She says there are currently 25 open routes that other Livingston Parish bus drivers have to cover right now.
Hennessy Dickerson said,”We’re letting them (bus drivers) down. We’re letting them down on so many levels.”
She claims the school bus drivers suffer not only from poor pay, but also from being belittled and undervalued.
“It’s been going on for quite some time. The drivers are talked down to. They are spoken to so rudely, and I think they are just tired of the lack of pay. They work for so little. It’s an icebox in the winter and a heater in the summer. There are so many disciplinarian issues on the buses, and they aren’t being heard, ” Hennessy Dickerson said.
Aimee also says that they have been fighting for pay for their extra work for half of her time with the school district.
“I owned my own bus for 15 years. We have been asking for this since we owned our own buses, and they always made out that there wasn’t a way for them to figure out how to pay us for taking the extra runs. Now when the flood happened in 2016, and Denham and Watson was doing the platooning, they paid the drivers from Doyle or Walker. They paid them extra to come over and drive so at that point they figured out a system to pay the drivers for the extra runs they make,” she said.
She says that as of the beginning of November, extra routes are meant to be recorded for the full-time drivers so they can be compensated, but they must meet their route quota each month before the extra time is considered meaning some may never see that money.
“I think it was so convoluted, the way it was proposed. It was so hard to understand and to follow anyway. When we had the meeting and voted on the lead drivers, I was in complete support of the bus drivers but I didn’t feel like it was fair. I feel like so many of them do extra and work above and beyond. It was opening the doors for favoritism,” Hennessy Dickerson said.
Aimee also claims the proposal was before Superintendent Joe Murphy twice before someone else brought it to the board’s attention.
Another issue she says bus drivers are facing is over-crowding.
“I have driven buses home to where you couldn’t fit another person on the bus. We would have three to four people on a seat,” she said.
Allegedly it is frowned upon for drivers to turn away students, but an overcrowded bus puts the children at risk and their CDL’s
Back in 2016, Aimee received her first write-up after her home flooded.
She claims she was written up for “inconveniencing her co-workers” for not running the extra, un-paid 11am shift when she was trying to rebuild her flooded house.
“I would have to miss the 11 o’ clock run because I would have to meet contractors or get materials to fix my home so he proceeded to write me up,” she said.
She also claims that due to someone not filing her 30 days of leave properly, she saw no paycheck from January to May the year she was meant to retire.
Aimee said “I filled out paperwork two different times and the right paperwork was not submitted to the school board so I was docked for all those thirty days. So when I got ready to retire, my retirement was pushed back because my leave was never turned in right and I didn’t draw a pay check from January to May. I had to call to find out when I would get another paycheck.”
She alleges that Superintendent Joe Murphy and some board members discuss the board meetings ahead of time and “decide how it’s going to go.”
Hennessy Dickerson said, “We have a strong majority that sticks together and typically they follow the superintendent.”
There are also allegations that board members are sending illegal text messages to other board members.
“They are also constantly changing the time the meetings are meant to be set. They used to be at seven, then they were at six. The one Thursday night is at five, and if they really don’t want us there they make them at 4:30,” Aimee claims.
She also says complaints have been made to ethics board, but no changes have been made.
Unfiltered with Kiran did reach out to the Livingston Parish Schools Superintendent Joe Murphy for a comment or response to the report. His response was:
We are having our regularly scheduled board meeting this evening at 5PM and below is a link to our published agenda. We have two meetings monthly, except during the months of July and December.
Thank you for your email
While complaints like these are being made, the Livingston Parish Public Schools took to their Facebook page to announce that bus drivers are needed.