Henrico school board scraps disputed bus driver contract proposal

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – Henrico school leaders have slammed the brakes on a hotly debated new contract proposal for school bus drivers.

Drivers wanted to keep their seven and eight hour per day contracts. School leaders wanted to take them all down to six hours because a study (which the drivers dispute) showed that's what most of them worked. The drivers said they'd have to consider quitting, then. So the board decided to scrap the whole idea.

The key phrase at this mostly empty school budget work session included just six words. "We are no longer recommending that."

"That" would be the divisive new contract for school bus drivers...who said 6-hour deals across the board wouldn't pay the drivers enough. So they organized, and rallied. And just last week, they got angry and emotional, pleading with school board members to ditch the plan...which officially happened Tuesday.

Ed Buzzelli is the Assistant Superintendent for Operations.

"Well, the board obviously had some concerns," he said.

Concerns, perhaps, that drivers like Harry Moseley would make good on a threat to look for other jobs. With that result unlikely now, Harry says it feels like a victory.

"So far, the only thing is, you know, we're not talking about getting a raise. We're just talking about keeping our jobs as is," Moseley stated.

The cash-strapped Henrico school district was expecting to save more than $2 million with the new bus driver contracts. Without them, the district will have to find other ways to stop the financial bleeding.

"We're really gonna take a look at the miles our buses travel through the county without students on board, and specifically, where we park our buses," Buzzelli said, a reference to deadhead miles and take-home buses for drivers.

As educators now go back to the drawing board, drivers say they're grateful.

"It's an opportunity to collectively improve," said Buzzelli.

"It's been a real grassroots thing and rewarding in that respect," Moseley added.

Among the other new ideas presented Tuesday, new hires will likely be grandfathered into the 6-hour contract, and the district will hire a few more part-timers to fill shifts.

Overall, Henrico County Public Schools faces a $26 million budget hole, which will be filled largely through attrition. The school board is expected to approve the spending plan this Thursday.

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