Bus drivers tell Hillsborough County School Board top-down change is needed

One after another, Hillsborough County school bus drivers lined up to address the school board.
 
"This is the eighth largest district in this country and we look like fools," Sheila Mingo said. 
 
"There definitely has to be some changes here folks. We're losing drivers," Kelmie Bigelow said. 
 
Bigelow, a bus driver with Hillsborough schools for the past three years, candidly told the board she'd be next to leave if nothing is done. Like many of her colleagues, Tuesday night was her first school board meeting. But wanting to strike while the iron is hot, they came forward with their concerns following a scathing memo from transportation department employees regarding school bus safety and transportation oversight. 
 
The drivers brought up their low pay, the old buses without air condition, student safety and a need for new leadership.
 
"The morale among the transportation staff has gone down, down, down," Mingo said.
 
"We have got the dirtiest, filthiest buses out there. They're horrendous," said Susan Valdes, school board vice chairwoman. 
 
Superintendent MaryEllen Elia started the meeting by addressing some of the transportation workers concerns. She told the audience the 15 points brought up in the memo are all under investigation by the administration and the office of professional standards.
 
But some board members questioned it.
 
"I am very concerned that there is bias in that investigation," board member April Griffin said. 
 
Griffin wants an independent investigation of the claims.
 
"Maybe we should get a retired FBI agent, or someone, to do this kind of work," Valdes agreed. 
 
In March, Elia said focus groups with the employees will be conducted by their union and the business process improvement team. 
 
But some bus drivers feel it's too little, too late. 
 
"We need some massive changes, and it needs to happen now," Bigelow said. 
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