Government considering placing cameras on buses
Some of Cayman’s school bus wardens fear they will be out of work as the government transitions their jobs to the private sector.
Most of the bus wardens, either past or reaching retirement age, say they feel they are still able to work and want to continue to do so.
Idolyn Smith, 60, a bus warden who has worked for government for nine years, said when she returned from vacation recently, she was told she would be working for the bus operator and not for government.
“I feel really bad if they are getting rid of us,” she said. “It is not right because I see older people working with government and that is not fair.”
Wardens, who are paid $1,700 a month each, fear that the private operators will not be able to afford to hire them or may choose not to hire them, and that they will be replaced by cameras on the buses.
Wardens are hired by government to oversee students traveling on buses, help students travel to and from school safely, notify school officials of misbehavior, and make sure drivers are not distracted.
Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler said that while government is not looking to phase out wardens on the buses, it is “moving to transition the provision of bus wardens into the private sector.”
She said the department currently employs 23 bus wardens and that government had been reducing the number of bus wardens it employs over the past several years.
“This is being done through natural attrition – resignations, retirements and persons at the end of contracts,” she said. “There are two separate groups of bus wardens – those employed directly by the Department of Education Services and those provided by the bus contractors as part of their contracted service.”
Cameras on buses
She confirmed government is considering placing cameras on buses, but added that if cameras were installed in the vehicles, bus wardens would continue to be used.
Sisley Ebanks, 58, said she has been a bus warden for 16 years. She also has a part-time job with the cruise lines but says that still does not bring in enough money.
“I don’t think they should take us off the buses. We are people who can still get up and go and want to work. I want to find out now how are cameras going to protect the children. That only means the driver is going to have to stop along the road to oversee the children,” she said.
Bus operator of 25 years Lenworth Smith said he was looking forward to working with government and having cameras rather than wardens on the buses.
“Cameras will be more than sufficient and will cost government less,” said Mr. Smith, adding that it would also give him a much better record of what actually goes on because cameras do not lie.
“I have less problems with children riding the buses and more problems with the wardens … half of them seldom turn up for work. It is up to government what they want to do,” he said.
George Powell, who operates a school bus route in the eastern districts, said wardens are concerned about losing their jobs because government plans to shift the hiring responsibility to the bus operators.
He acknowledged he also has had some headaches with the wardens from time to time. “Some of the wardens’ behavior has not been acceptable and the reason for that is they have not been trained properly to deal with children,” he said.
Mr. Powell, who has had a camera in one of his buses for the past five years, said he intended to retain most of the wardens on his buses.
“[The camera] worked well because the drivers are very disciplined but it did not help when it came to a medical emergency,” he said. “A camera cannot help a child.”
Mr. Powell said he has had cases where a student has needed assistance and the wardens were able to help.