ROANOKE, Va. – There’s a new boss in town running the Roanoke City school bus show and he’s been tasked with a tall order.
Students have been late getting picked up and dropped off since the first day of school. Among other issues, there is a shortage of bus drivers.
Ron Young is the new general manager for Durham School Services, which is the transportation company used in Roanoke City Public Schools. Young said that he’s confident they can fix the problem.
Young and other Durham managers handed out turkeys Friday morning to every employee to help spread holiday cheer. Young said he enjoys getting face time with the employees and letting them know they’re appreciated.
“You know, ‘Hey thanks for all you’re doing,’ because we’ve got people burning the candle at both ends just to get the students to school because we need more drivers,” Young said.
Young is a month in on the job and has inherited a less than ideal situation, with buses running late since the first day of school. The school board is at their breaking point, questioning if Durham’s culture is the problem.
“Just like family, it happens. Some people are going to get together with Thanksgiving dinner and there might be a squabble at the table. That happens with family because we all have different personalities," Young said.
Hiring more drivers and retaining current drivers remains the priority. Durham corporate vice president John Zeigler said he has full trust in Young.
“He jumped right in and is a great people person, brings some great process and part of our improvement here, so I think he’s a fantastic fit,” Zeigler said.
Every employee got a turkey on Friday. Driver Kathy Malone appreciated the gift.
“I think that we are all appreciated here as drivers, I really do and I think they’ve done everything to make us feel that way, absolutely,” Malone said.
Not every driver agreed though.
Some in the parking lot weren’t as kind. Union rally signs are still posted right outside the bus yard. While the turkeys are a nice gesture, parents want to know when the deadline is for the bus fix, and Durham is not willing to set one.
“It’s not in my hand, I don’t control it. I’m doing everything I can but God controls all things I don’t," Young said.
“When they’re working extra hard or they don’t think they’re respected or appreciated, that’s never good. And so that’s been part of my sit down and listen, and hear what’s going on, hear the problems. I can’t fix everything but we’re going to do what we can to fix everything," Young said.