Freeman Bus Workers Speak Out About Contract DecisionPosted: Updated:
"They're the first person they see before they go to school and the last person when they get off the bus. They see us. It's a 'good morning' and 'have a good night,'" said Rebekah Goutremout, who has worked with Freeman Bus Corporation as a bus driver for 18 years, and has been around the company her whole life after her mother started there in 1986.
But earlier this week, the Watertown City School board has decided to replace Freeman with First Student, a bus company that handles transportation for four north country schools already.
This decision will save district taxpayers millions of dollars, but which also means that after June 30, more than 60 people will lose their jobs.
Even on a quiet winter day when school was canceled, many Freeman employees came out to voice their opposition to the district's decision.
"These employees care. They care about themselves, they care about each other, they care about the community, they care about their students. Literally, their students. This is a family," said Krista Jones, administrative director.
It's a family bond that could be broken in a matter of months. Freeman drivers say that's something they're not on board with.
"It'd be hard only because I'm losing a great family. Will I go with First Student? No. I'm dedicated to Freeman Bus," said Goutremout.
It's a decision that's already been made. But later this month, Freeman drivers will attend a school board meeting in hopes that the contract is reversed.
But the law is not on their side, since it requires the district to sign with the lowest contract bidder, and First Student bid around $6 million less than Freeman.
"I've seen them go from kindergarten up to graduating. It's tough when I have a whole bus full of students that possibly, come September, I'll never see again," said Goutremout.
We tried reaching out to First Student, but no one from the company got back to us.