By JOHN ANDERSON
Aaron Kautz, a fourth-year school bus driver who was driving for the Alfred-Almond Central School district, said he was fired on Wednesday after a Facebook post.
In the morning, seven of nine drivers called in, forcing Alfred-Almond Central School Superintendent Tracie Bliven to cancel in-person classes. However, the district was prepared for a remote learning day.
After district parents and residents were notified in the morning, Kautz posted “to all my AACS parents, I do apologize to you but this was a necessary evil … we will be heard.”
By noon, he posted the drivers weren’t sick or protested because of mandates, rather the “call in sick” was the result of other departments and support staff receiving raises and the bus drivers did not.
Kautz said by 4 p.m. he was out of a job for his Facebook post (story and post here).
“Posting on Facebook got me fired,” he posted, on Facebook.
According to public board minutes, bus drivers at Alfred-Almond are paid $15.47 an hour.
Meanwhile, the school posted classes will be back to in-person on Thursday and also posted a flyer asking for bus drivers.
In an interview with Cody Taylor of WENY-TV, Kautz said he was already on probation for Facebook posts. Taylor wrote, “The district cited an unrelated issue from back in April, where he was put on a five year media probationary period. He says the district told him he violated the terms of that probationary period, and was terminated.”
Taylor said in his story the union, drivers and administration will meet Friday and he talked to another driver, Paul Gabriel, who said drivers could leave for other jobs.
Gabriel said the drivers want a $5 increase. The new contract signed in September, Taylor reported, has three separate pay increases over three years. Drivers would go from $15.47 to $18.47, to $20.47 and by the third year, $21.47 an hour. Drivers want to be at $20.47 in year one.
There was a lot of support for the drivers on the Sun social media pages. However, on Kautz’s own Facebook page, Jo-Anne Phillipson-Freeland told Kautz the drivers did not think of the kids and only themselves.
“In doing this how many children who have already lost time at school lost another day, how many didn’t eat because they get free meals at school?” Phillipson-Freeland asked. “How many were left home alone because parents couldn’t afford to loose another day of work. How many parents lost wages so you could make a point. Did you think of any of the kids you have caused harm to or only of yourselves ?”
When another person pointed out it was only one day, Phillipson-Freeland responded, “One day can be the difference between getting groceries for some. Might even cost another person their job if they have already missed too much work. This isn’t covered under Covid pay. How about the kids though that might have had a sport event that can’t participate in now because of this and have missed so much already in the past 2 years. Very selfish to do this to the kids … “
Others defended Kautz and the drivers saying it was selfish of the district to underpay drivers for years. The dedication and devotion of the drivers like Kautz to the children was also cited.