Drivers for school bus agency Dallas County Schools said Tuesday they are worried about their future and who will transport the kids they serve now.
A group of drivers and a union representative spoke outside the northwest Dallas bus lot where they are based.
"I treat all my babies like my own. And all my kids parents love me," said 13-year veteran driver Michelle Foster. "And when they found all this is going down, they said, 'What's going to happen to you?'"
A week after voters decided to close DCS, the drivers complained they have not been told what the future holds for them except that DCS will continue operating through this school year.
The Nov. 7 voter referendum came after a year of NBC 5 Investigates reports on safety and financial problems at the agency. The former superintendent and board president both resigned amid the turmoil.
"We're not saying there weren't problems. There were problems. But the drivers should not have been thrown up under the bus," union representative Linda Barrett said.
Since the Nov. 7 election, Barrett said drivers have been given no information about their future expect for the announcement that DCS service will continue through the current school year.
Driver Shelia Gregory said operating a school bus requires long hours and strong dedication to children.
"We wear many, many hats," Gregory said. "We're the police. We're the teachers, the caregivers. We intervene in the morning and talk to them and love on them when nobody else cares or don't have time. We get them to school safely."
Some drivers complained they are unfairly blamed for delays caused by parents and teachers who are slow to get kids to the bus. One driver complained principals have been slow to discipline students for problems reported on buses. Their union representative said the overwhelming majority of school bus drivers have an excellent safety record.
"And for them to be portrayed out here in the public as though they are reckless drivers is totally unfair," Barrett said.
Leaders of the Dallas Independent School District have said they intend to take on the transportation service and hire DCS drivers. Other districts are still making plans.
"I don't feel these drivers should have to reapply," Barrett said. "You need these drivers. They should be brought on. They should be able to keep their benefits and their pay. They should not have to start all back over."
Even though it does not employ teachers, bus agency DCS participates in the Texas Teacher Retirement System. Drivers could lose the ability to complete their TRS retirement if private contractors take over school bus transportation and hire the drivers. Pay could also be lower.
"Why are people coming in and telling us that it's our fight and we've got to go find another job? We've got to do something? They need to come and take care of us," Foster said.
Some additional answers to driver questions could come Wednesday as the dissolution committee of affected school superintendents meets to begin the transition process for Dallas County Schools.