Photo by Scott McLennan
In the front row, from left to right, are Concord resident Lissa McKinney, drivers Christine
Kelleher-Ross and Donna Kenney, and union Secretary Sue Dunn.
T hree years ago, when a plan to renovate Concord-Carlisle High School called for relocating the district’s school bus operation
off school property, district administrators began a
campaign to outsource transportation services to a
But the Concord-Carlisle Bus Drivers’ Unit
mobilized quickly, joining with citizens groups that
came together to save the district’s ownership of the
buses and the jobs of the drivers.
The successful anti-privatization effort stretched
over three long years, during which the 30-person
group, one of the few drivers-only units in the MTA,
would crunch numbers, conduct informational
pickets and give presentations to the Town Meeting
members who would ultimately decide their fate.
For decades, the district’s buses had provided
service to the students of Concord and the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District.
“We trusted the drivers. We knew the drivers
knew our kids,” said parent Lissa McKinney.
“There’s a real personal element with the drivers.”
So when the district began moving toward
privatization, a Citizens Transportation Committee
formed to study the issue. That committee found it
would be less expensive for the district to maintain
its own bus service than to privatize.
When the district responded with its own
transportation study concluding that privatization
would be less expensive and attempted to move
forward on a contract with First Student, citizens
filed a complaint with the state Office of the
Inspector General alleging that the bid process was
The dispute dragged on through three annual
Town Meetings, during which the drivers were able
to settle only one-year contracts.
This past spring, Town Meeting voters backed
a plan to relocate the bus yard to Acton temporarily,
eventually buy a parcel of land for the bus yard and
maintain their own transportation service.
Unit Co-President Frank Murphy applauded
members for staying motivated as the battle unfolded.
The drivers also hailed the strong support they
received from the families they serve and from other
community residents who recognized their value.
Harry Vafides, vice president of the local, said
that when he worked as a bus driver in Framingham
and the town privatized student transportation there,
drivers’ benefits decreased and the town realized no
When the privatization issue was finally
resolved, the union settled a three-year contract,
which raises drivers’ pay 2 percent in each of the first
two years and 2. 5 percent in the third. The agreement
stood in contrast to the one-year pacts during the
And there was another happy ending: New
drivers, hired when the dispute was finally resolved,
have been added to the unit.
‘We trusted the drivers. We
knew the drivers knew our
kids. There’s a real personal
element with the drivers.’
— Parent Lissa McKinney
offered innumerable ideas for educators in terms of
classroom strategy and union activism.
But the conference wasn’t all about pondering
possibilities; it also provided opportunities for
educators to voice their perspectives and concerns.
ED Talks, for example, featured eight speakers
offering “big ideas” about education. An enthusiastic
crowd of members packed an auditorium for
presentations on subjects that ranged from public
education funding to punk rock as an inspiration for
connecting with students.
This year’s conference introduced an “open
mic” session for educators to air concerns and share
strategies. The forum brought to light issues such as
how to build better relationships between preK- 12
schools, colleges and universities and the damages
wrought by high-stakes standardized testing.
Aside from tackling weighty issues, attendees
had the chance to socialize with colleagues and to
meet fellow members from across the state.
The conference also provided a relaxed
atmosphere for members to talk to Warren Tolman, a
candidate for attorney general, and Steve Kerrigan,
a candidate for lieutenant governor. Both MTA-recommended candidates attended an afternoon
picnic, where they mingled with members and
listened to educators’ concerns.
Continued from Page 10 The week also featured the premiere of
Roberts, who is about to turn 100 years old,
remains active in both her union and her town.
She received a standing ovation at the film’s
screening, and her message — that a strong union
leads to strong schools and strong communities —
resonated throughout the conference.
To see more Summer Conference photos and
view videos, visit flickr.com/mtacommunications
MTA members showcase ‘big ideas,’ speak out and network