Hollow good-bye

Dear editor:
My name is Aleata Jerry, and I am one of 14 Rainy River District School Board employees that drove school bus. We are the first person your child sees in August, and the last person who says good-bye, be good, and have a great summer every June.
This year is different, though, as I will not be returning to work as a board employee. I recently was terminated by the Rainy River District School Board, where I was employed for the last 14 years.
For 14 years, I have driven countless numbers of children safely to and from school. I enjoyed their happiness, shared their dreams, and sometimes was there, just to listen, when they were hurting. I watched them play, compete, grow into fine young people, and even watched as some of them graduated from high school.
In recent years, I was cut from eight hours per day to 5.25 hours per day. Then last August, we were told we had one more year to drive for the board. But even though we knew it was coming, we were not prepared for what happened. We assumed we would be treated fairly. We were wrong.
The Employment Standards Act states, “At the least, we were to get one week of pay for every year of service;” that is, if you are employed for more than five years. I received one week, for each year, but for the years that I worked eight hours, I received one week at 5.25 hours.
Even though there were days we would phone in sick, we would be told, “We have no spare drivers, what do you suggest we do?” Being loyal and dedicated, and now looking back, gullible, we would drive.
Now that we have all these sick days accumulated, we were told by the board that we lose them. I think that this is very unfair. I calculate that the board saved just over $4,500 on my severance pay and sick days, and more than that from the other employees that were terminated.
I feel like we were not treated with decency or even as a valued employee. We were not recognized for a job well done–even the OAC students were treated to lunch at the Rendez-Vous for graduating.
I hope other employees of the Rainy River District School Board take this letter seriously, as their turn is coming. Their jobs may be on the termination list at some point in time.
I was privileged and proud to be a school bus driver and I certainly hope that all the parents say thanks to their child’s bus driver once in a while. Let them know you appreciate the good job they are doing, that you appreciate the safe ride to and from school.
That you appreciate the fact that the drivers go the extra distance to make sure the student feels safe, both in riding and knowing that they can talk to the driver.
I would like to say thank you to the parents and children who have been part of my life for the last 14 years. They have been interesting years.
I also would like to say a big thank you to all the bus drivers–board and contract drivers–for the privilege of working with you, for being there when I needed you, and for the friendships that I hope will continue (even you, Wes).
Last of all, to my family, who put up with me when I needed to work on my bus-related duties, in the evenings, when it should have been their time.
Thank you all, for a great 14 years as a Rainy River District School bus driver.
To all my kids, one last time, be good, have a great summer, and good-bye!
Aleata Jerry