Unit 5 school district terminates all bus drivers

By Katherine Tellez

Unit 5 school district terminates all bus drivers

June 11, 2014 Updated Jun 11, 2014 at 10:45 PM CDT

NORMAL, Ill. -- Forty-six school bus drivers in Mclean County's Unit 5 are losing their jobs.

The school board voted unanimously Wednesday night to release the drivers and outsource bus service to First Student.

The district has partially outsourced bus service since July of 2012.

Of the just under 200 Unit 5 bus employees, 150 chose to resign and go to First Student. The other 46 stayed with the district.

News 25 spoke with several of the drivers.

They said they were informed yesterday that they would be fired.

Many have worked for the district for several years, some of them decades.

They said they've been loyal to the district and have earned the right to stay.

The drivers say they do not want to work for First Student because not only will their pay decrease, but they'll lose their health insurance, sick days and retirement.

"This is not just a job for me. And I feel like I'm just being, after all the time I've been here, I'm just being thrown away. As if I don't matter, or the time that I've dedicated and given doesn't matter...The relationships with the children we've developed, doesn't matter," said JB Johnson, a Unit 5 bus driver for 14 years.

"I still yet have to work and God will provide for me. But in the meanwhile they need to do right concerning us and negotiate properly with us," said Unit 5 bus driver, Myra Johnson.

AFSCME represents the bus drivers.

Union reps said what the school board did tonight is not legal.

AFSCME is asking an appellate court for a second review. If denied, the union will appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Superintendent Gary Niehaus acknowledged that the drivers have been loyal, but he adds that after two years of back and forth -- it's time to move forward.

He said going with First Student was for budget and bus efficiency reasons.

The termination is effective July 31st.

Niehaus said they made the decision now, so the drivers would have the option to apply with First Student before the beginning of the school year.

Also during Wednesday night's board meeting, it was announced that the 13 teachers laid off as part of a reduction in force have been
rehired.