State school board approves emergency plan to handle possible bus driver strike

tbarton@islandpacket.comJanuary 23, 2013 

The S.C. Board of Education unanimously approved an emergency measure today to help school districts that contract with Durham School Services, which includes Beaufort County, deal with a bus driver strike, should one occur. Durham will be allowed to bring in out-of-state drivers who don't have state-required certifications. State education Superintendent Mick Zais urged Teamsters not to strike.

Durham and the Teamsters union met Tuesday for negotiations in Charleston for the Charleston County School District, but no resolution was reached.

Durham and the union are also scheduled to meet this week in employment contract negotiations with the Beaufort County and Dorchester 2 school districts.

All three districts contract with Durham for bus services. About half of Beaufort County’s 200 bus drivers are Teamsters, according to school district spokesman Jim Foster.

If no agreement is reached, a strike would start on Jan. 28, Zais said in prepared remarks.

"We must always put the interests of students first, not the interests of adults in the system," Zais said. "I encourage both sides to continue their negotiations, and to negotiate in good faith. But I urge the Teamsters Union not to strike, because a strike will negatively affect parents and students. I repeat: I urge the Teamsters Union not to strike."

The state board’s action Wednesday waives a requirement that out-of-state bus drivers have a S.C. Department of Education Bus Driver Certificate. The 90-day exemption applies only to bus drivers replacing striking Durham School Services drivers in Beaufort, Charleston and Dorchester 2 school districts. After 90 days, only those drivers who have a state bus driver certificate will be authorized to drive a school bus in South Carolina.

Out-of-state drivers will still be required to have a valid license to drive a school bus from another state, as well as a commercial driver’s license, current medical card, copy of their driving record and recent criminal background check, proof of participation in random drug testing, and have at least five years driving experience, with two years as a school bus driver.

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