Bus Drivers Angered By BOE’s Requirement To Work On Thanksgiving

[Reader Submitted] It was recently brought to the attention of the bus drivers of the bus companies transporting Lakewood’s public and private schools that they will be required to work all day on Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 2011. I can not begin to tell you all of the range of emotions this has brought out in the Lakewood’s school bus drivers.

Feelings of anger, sadness, concern and resentment are common since this news was broken. In the past the previous Lakewood BOE transportation manager has allowed the companies to give the drivers off on Thanksgiving and Christmas and only staffing drivers who volunteered to work.

For many drivers, Thanksgiving is an important date on the calender, it is a day that families get together (some coming home from all over the world) to be close to one another and enjoy each others company. Many family members may only see each other on this day each year. My own family is devastated that as of now I will not be joining them for the day or Thanksgiving dinner and it is taking a toll on me and many other drivers.

We’re told we can not request off and if we do not show up for work we may be fired. It’s truly a heartbreaking situation for many.

The public and Christian schools will be off Thanksgiving Day and will not require transportation. However, we will be required to come in to drive the Jewish schools. We don’t ask for very much just to have this day and Christmas to spend with our families.

I know that some may have a negative opinion of Lakewood’s school bus drivers, but most of us do an exceptional job under Lakewood’s harsh driving conditions and truly care about the children of the Jewish community that we transport each day.

I am asking the community to contact the Lakewood Board of Education and transportation manager Gus Kakavas and encourage them to give the drivers the day off to be with our families.

This may not be an important day to the Jewish calender, but for us it is and we are asking for the mutual respect that we give to you on your important days.

Thank you for any support on behalf of Lakewood’s School Bus Drivers.

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  1. I am all for the drivers. Wish I can do something I will speak to my scholls administrator and my friends to see that they are given the day off.

  2. The drivers should have the day off! They deserve it. They also deserve our respect and understanding for their holidays which are important to them.

  3. Like any other job, the boss calls the shots. If you need to work it out, talk to the boss. If you don’t think you are being treated right, talk to his boss. I symapathize, and think that the late runs should be cancelled, but this is the employee life. At least you have a job!

  4. This is outrageous and Chutzpah! The drivers need to shown respect to observe their holiday’s. Can’t kids walk to school one day or have their parents drive them? How can we expect others to show respect for us when we are so callus in showing any respect for others!

  5. I just called and left a message demanding the bus drivers be given off for the holiday. The yeshivas can figure something out for one day, or better yet, give the kids off from school as well, since this is an American holiday, and we are all American, and should be thankful for all of the good we have.

  6. support the drivers even though its going to be hard on all of us parents. the last thing we need is for them to have any sort of resentment towards jewish people- remember after all they do have our children in their hands.

  7. Shame on the BOE you ask them for Sensitivity for our needs so be sensitive to their needs. We take off whenever we need to etc. Let them have their important days off. Don’t forget WE ARE STILL IN GALUS!!!!

  8. I wholeheartedly agree with the drivers. As a religious Jew in the workplace, I have numerous dates throughout the year that I am unable to work and my non-Jewish and non-religious colleagues never give me a problem, notwithstanding the fact that while I am out, they have to work harder because of my absence. If we want people to respect the fact that there are days we cannot work, we should respect the days they generally don’t work!

  9. They should have the day off and be provided an incentive (double time/comp time) to optionally come in and work. It’s wrong to force them to work on a nationally observed holiday. In other municipalities the parents, who are mostly off from work, drive/carpool their children to and from schools on such school days that public schools are off, creating scheduling problems (children in multiple schools) and traffic chaos at the schools. Nevertheless living in a mixed society demands mutual respect for each other’s needs and preferences.

  10. does anyone have Gus Kakavas’ email address? i don’t have time to try to get thru to the board of Ed by phone. they are impossible to reach. lets all call/ email to help get the drivers this day off.

  11. Now is the perfect time to show respect for the non-Jewish portion of the community. This country has holidays and these days should be respected. It will not cause any harm to close the Jewish schools for two days so these drivers can be with their families. These are the type of issues that divide a community and create resentment. Now it is your turn to show respect for others.

  12. As a bus driver in this town for many years I want to thank you all for you nice comments,Just like some of your holidays that are more family orientated, this is one of ours and not spending it with family we dont get to see a lot, makes it more meaningful.

  13. Can TLS please publish contact information for Mr. Kakavas and the Lakewood Board of Education, it’ll make it more likely that people will contact them.

  14. It would be a Kiddush Hashem to do something to alleviate the bus drivers anger. Turkey Day is one of their big, yearly holidays, and non-Jewish people employed in the schools totally expect that day off to be with their families. I can understand their view.

  15. I also believe since we are all Americans, all schools should be closed on Memorial day. History shows more Jewish people should respect Memorial day.

  16. boss calls the shots like any other job out there. doesn’t sound to me like gus kakavas is jewish so this is not a jewish/non jewish issue. boss calls the shots and if you don’t like it find another job.

  17. This is not Turkey Day! This is Thanksgiving Day, the day when Christians and some Jews give thanks to God for all they have. Jews have your own day to give thanks. This is our day. Let’s show some respect for others beliefs.

  18. This is listed on the Lakewood School District website;
    for transportation or bus information, email Gus at [email protected] or call Patty at (732) 905-3697.

    This is totally not a them/us issue. This is an issue of the employee rights and the concerns of the community that makes us of these employees. If the ball players who make millions of dollars can demand more money, than the bus drivers can ask for a day off and we as their friends can support that!!!

  19. That is so sad. Thanksgiving is a big deal to a lot of people and people deserve to have a day off to be with their families. No matter if they’re Jewish or not. Imagine a woman whose a homemaker taking care of the kids and the house. She doesn’t get to see her husband often during the week and then she hears about this. There must be a lot of devastated people out there.
    I feel sorry for those who have to work. They work hard every single day and deserve to have a day to catch up with quality time with the ones they love. That’s what Thanksgiving is all about. Forget the story of Thanksgiving. It’s just about being together and having a good time.

  20. I can’t believe some of you people! The ones who are saying ‘listen to the boss’ etc. are being ridiculous. First of all, if they normally get off on this day, there is an expectation that this is a perk of the job. UPS doesn’t deliver on the 24th. There is no garbage pick up. There wasn’t garbage pick up on election day for crying out loud! Comparing a bus driver to a police officer or hospital staff is just plain dumb.

  21. A national holiday, not a religious day, Thanksgiving is a day when bank,stock market,post office,schools,universities,shopping centers are closed.Not so in Lakewood. The BOE should be shamed into changing this directive.We all live in America,we all have access to what OUR country offers,we all should give thanks for what we have.
    It isn’t about where you are from, or what religion you practice. It is about Thanks for what we all have.

  22. First off, the Board of Ed doesn’t have the resources to pay for HOLIDAY (time and half) pay for each route. My driver are NOT working and there will be NO TRANSPORTATION! CONTRACT or NO CONTRACT! Thanksgiving day, Christmas Day, New Years Day, and Memorial Day were the four holiday that given to the contractors as NO TRANSPORTATION days!

  23. @ #31 No, we don’t like it not one bit, we have had Thanks giving off for years now all of a sudden because of a few temper tantrums, we don’t get to spend it with our families.Thanks, Thanks a whole lot.

  24. Ill be happy to provide transportation for as many that will fit in my minivan. Id even drive a bus myself if I was certified. Such a shame not to give these nice people a holiday off!

  25. @Annon: Gus can call the shots, but he can’t call them FROM HOME! In my opinion, this topic is not up for discussion. NO TRANSPORATION on Thanksgiving Day!!! Bottom line. Gus will be enjoy is 30 pound turkey and the rest of the fixings while the rest of the district has to work? NOT!!!! AND, how will the children get to school should all the driver NOT SHOW UP? I guess the mini van’s parked in everyone driver way will be utilized!!

  26. This is so outrageous that I was hesitant to believe this letter! I hope this is was all simply a miscommunication. How dare they be asked to work full days on one of their holiday’s?! This is one of the biggest “family days” in the USA and the BOE wants them working? This is sheer chutzpah. At the same time, I don’t think this is a Jewish versus Non-Jewish issue.In fact I think, based on the comments here, if one to take a poll among Jewish people, some 98% would side with the drivers. Whoever would not needs some basic sensitivity training in my opinion.

  27. While sympathizing with the bus drivers, I’d like to point the other side of the story. There are thousands of private school students, ken ayin hara, and the traffic on the legal holidays when there was no busing was horrendous and probably unsafe, as the school entrances and driveways were not designed for hundreds of car-pools.

    Therefore, I presume, the schools put into their proposals that they need busing on these days, and the bus companies bid for the jobs on that basis. If the bus companies don’t want to service a school due to scheduling difficulties, I believe that the BOE has the option of offering the school vouchers to pay for their own buses or private contracts.

    Does a bus driver work all day? I think not. Why can’t they arrange the timing of their family dinner around their work schedule?

  28. My question is, was this issue decided by the Board of Education yet? I do know a Board Meeting is forthcoming. SO, before we speculate, lets go to the board on November 17, 2011 and express the concerns we have as fellow drivers and contractors AFTER a final decision is made. I personally do not feel the board will take this holiday away from the drivers. I just think this is being blown out of portion PRIOR to a decision being made. BASED upon the fact that transportation was not provided for the LAST 7 years (2004 on) on Thanksgiving Day, it is fair to say to assume the same this year. If contractors are not provided a decision to this by the 18th or so, then I would say NO TRANSPORTATION. Otherwise, let’s see what the decision is before we begin assuming the worse!

  29. I actually was going to e-mail Gus to compliment my child’s afternoon bus driver. This driver is so careful with my child’s safety that I wanted her complimented from “up there”. Now I have another sentence to add in the e-mail.

    This is really sick. I have never heard such absurdity in my life. Thanksgiving is one of the most traveled days in the calendar of the US. Millions of people travel across the country(and the world) to be with their families. The BOE wants them sitting on a cold bus?! I am confident this decision will be retracted shortly. It was probably the doing of a few hotheads who didn’t have their coffee this morning.

  30. OH, and just for the record, I am a contractor within the district and I have not heard anything about providing transportation on Thanksgiving Day…which means IT HAS NOT YET BEEN DISCUSSED NOR APPROVED!!!!

  31. What changed? We always drive our kids to school on legal holidays. it is a pain but it is only a few days a year. big deal. I didn’t even hear of anyone complaining about this on TLS (surprise, surprise).

    I say they should have off. Even Walmart and shoprite are not open on thanksgiving!!!!

  32. The Bus Drivers should strike. National press should be called in and the blame should fall where it does. Let one and all of. Hearken to my voice. Serve turkey to each… rejoice!


  34. I have to work the holidays but I took a job that cannot close just like police and hospital staff, the bus drivers took a job that should give them off on certain holidays this being one!

  35. Of course they deserve the day off. I work in a non Jewish accounting firm and even with the pressure of tax season my boss would never make me come in on a day like Purim even though technically I could work that day.It would be outrageous not to give the drivers off.

  36. While our children’s safety is a major concern, our greater issue should be the Chilul H-shem of demanding our rights and causing animosity. Perhaps there should be a system whereby drivers willing to work will volunteer for the routes and be paid according to a holiday scale. If we want our Yomim Tovim to be respected, it behooves us to do the same for others.

  37. Isn’t Thanksgiving Day officially on Friday, November 25? The bus driver is asking for Thursday 11/24! I agree that they should be off on Thanksgiving of course, but we are talking about the day before, are we not?

  38. Lakewood has sunk to a new low, Every driver should refuse to work ,are they going to fire all of them ? DISGUSTING !!!
    This BOE has shown its true colors ,they just do not care about people just their adgena

  39. Gus fixed a lot that was broken with our bussing! I got to know him a bit in the process. This must have been a decision that was forced on him! Whoever forced this issue, made a mistake and should retract, while they can still save face.

  40. I agree with all the comments here. It’s a true kiddush Hashem that the Jewish community shows such sensitivity and caring for those that do so much good for us. Thank you bus drivers. Keep up the good work.

    If there will be busing I will not send my children that day.
    I will explain that we cannot participate in so huge a Chillul Hashem.
    I will keep them home from Yeshiva to impress upon them the severity of thinking that Moshiach has already arrived. Torah may NEVER be studied at the expense of causing another discomfort and pain. Certainly not at the expense of Chillul Hashem.
    I’ll buy turkey and explain to them the significance of appreciating the good Hashem does for Goyim – and that we must always be Makir Tova to them- as we live in their lands as free jews.

  42. #56 Thankgiving is always on a Thursday. The Friday after Thanksgiving is one of the biggest shopping days of the Year. It has become known as Black Friday because the retails stores profits go from red to black.


  43. Sounds like each individsual on the Board Of Education needs a bopping on the head and need to get educated themselves! It’s DRIVING me crazy thinking about their decision on this matter.

  44. why is there no rav or posek stepping up to the plate stating whether this is or is not a major chillul or kiddush hashem. as far as im concerned if there is even a minute safek of a chikllul hashem you all should be protesting.

  45. I have the best Idea, lets close all the private schools, to take the day off, sit home with our children & thank Hashem & this wonderful country for being so gracious to jews and allowing them to enterance to the U.S.from Europe in our time of need.

  46. Great chinuch, keeping the kids home. I agree a hundred percent that the bus drivers should have off. Drive your kids. Show them that yeshiva is so important to you that you’ll come late/leave early from work just so that they may learn some more torah even though the bus drivers are not available to drive them.

  47. To our dedicated bus drivers:

    personally, I don’t believe this is all true. I simply cannot fathom this being true. It is completely outrageous. Let’s wait and hear the facts.

    If indeed they are requiring you guys to work, then let EVERY SINGLE bus driver stay home! Let them try firing every bus driver serving the district. Even if they were able to, it would hit national news.

    You have the support of the community. If there are some who do not support you, it is because they are extremely narrow minded and have yet to learn the ways of the world.

  48. It’s so wonderful to see so many supportive comments!!

    to #26- no, the police and hospital workers will not be next. There are people who choose to do certain jobs knowing that they will work holidays, weekends, nights, etc and it is expected. Hopefully it’s compensated in some way. My husband’s job is one of those- and our family plans accordingly. We understand that for the next 20 years that’s the way it will usually be. School bus drivers are NOT part of that group. You cannot compare the two.

  49. I see no reason to have bus drivers working on Thanksgiving. Alternatives would be to drive your child yourself,car pool, or enjoy the day with your children. We are one town and we need to act like it

  50. Outside of Lakewood, there is NO bus service, (unless the boro park chasidishe schools that own their buses and have heimishe drivers). Whats the big deal? Either arrange car pools before or pay someone to pick up your children. It happens all over the rest of the world, Im sure it can be done in Lakewood too….

  51. The drivers absolutely should have the day off. Thanksgiving is an American holiday……We are all americans before being Jewish or not. All schools should be closed and the kids should be spending the holiday with family.
    This whole thing is absurd!!!

  52. Of course the drivers should have the day to spend with their families! I am just wondering whether we would avoid a whole big mess if the drivers just drove the morning runs. By 9 AM they are ready to spend the rest of the day with the family. Everyone will work out a way to get the kids home.

  53. I happen to disagree with all the sentiments sounded off here. The calendar of the private school route are different than the public school routes. Before a driver takes on an assignment in the beginning of the school year, he gets to see that although there are 2, 3 days a year in which he ordinarily wouldn’t work, there are around 10 days a year in which he has vacation more than the drivers who drive other routes.

    Driving a bus route, still allows the driver to be home in time for a thanksgiving dinner and a football game.

  54. Who says we’re American Jews and not Jewish Americans? Where you put the American part is not the point! The drivers should have off because this is an American holiday and it is understood that bus drivers have the day off. Bus drivers are not emergency workers and there is no reason they shouldn’t have the day off like every other non emergency worker.

  55. Are you saying that since I get Thanksgiving off and xmas off – I should come in to work on Succos or Pesach???? I know the job I am taking – and if I want to request Pesach off – I am at risk of being fired?
    Or maybe work on Purim and be home by shkia so I can eat the seuda!!

  56. You all can count on me showing up to my job. I was taught responsibility at a young age and will work my way around my job to schedule seeing the family and enjoying the turkey dinner too!

    Life is full of inconveniences when you gotta work hard to put bread on the table. One thing’s for sure.. maybe some of the other drivers don’t need the money, but I sure could use the extra cash in this economy to pay my bills..

    Thank you for giving me a job!!

  57. Gus-

    I was horrified to learn that the bus drivers in Lakewood are required to work their Yeshiva runs on Thanksgiving.

    It’s simply not fair- it’s like telling me I had to come in to work on one of my holidays or I’d lose my job!

    This just isn’t right.
    Please reconsider the issue- everybody deserves a day off and time with their family!

    Why not cancel all busing like on Christmas or a snow day? I guarantee you that everyone will manage to get their own children to school!

    At the very least please offer a bonus to all bus drivers in the district as an incentive to do the Yeshiva runs.


    Rachel C. Klein

    Proud Lakewood Resident, Private School Parent & CAGS Educational Media Specialist

  58. I am outraged how the BOE won’t give the Public School Bus Drivers off for Thanksgiving Day unbelievable. I work in the Lakewood School District and we get our days off according to school calenders. The BOE should stop and think how about those loved ones that our bus drivers haven’t seen in years and are getting the chance to for the holidays and then this happens. They should be ashamed of themselves. Is it going to be the same for Christmas when our soldiers come home finally after years of fighting for our and others freedoms. Disgraceful. Those bus drivers probably have loved ones who have been fighting for freedom and finally coming home.

  59. #37- Thanksgiving is a religious holiday, as President Washington, a member of the Anglican church, declared is a national day of thanksgiving in 1792 because the Anglican church declared the last Thursday in November as a day of thanksgiving in 1791. Whether banks etc. are closed in not relevant to the history of the holiday.

    As a child I learned that Thanksgiving was based on the time when the settlers of the new world invited the natives to eat turkey with them. That is false. There was a 3 day holiday in the 1660’s in December celebrating the harvest, but there was no turkey, pilgrim shoes, stuffing, natives, etc. That has nothing to do with the holiday that President Washington declared in 1792.

    Regardless, the bus drivers should not be required to work. Thanksgiving is the day that many people spend time with their families and do not work. For me, I spend family time on Yom Tov and Chanuka. Our bus drivers do not have these times, so they use Thanksgiving for their family time. As such, I support our bus drivers and suggest that they not be required to work on Thanksgiving. They should be allowed to enjoy family time.

  60. Mr Steven Langert is the man who can rectify this situation. He is a huge mentch who has connections in the BOE. He would do everything in his power to dismantle this chilul hashem . Someone please inform him of this situation. Guaranteed results!!

  61. By buddy Loyal Bus Driver #89 is Jewish. He tells me he’s never had turkey in his life and personally doesnt go for sports. he can talk for himself.
    I know my obligations, and there is no clause to say we work on days off. The bus drivers in this town all have one work calandar.

    Thank You.

  62. In 1999, I asked a board member why we got rid of our buses, and she said outsourcing was cost efficient. I never believed it.
    We have over 21,000 kids. The district operate the buses and employ their drivers almost all day. High school and middle school public students start at 7:00 am. Sixth through eighth grade yeshiva boys are picked up at 7:30 in the morning. High school yeshiva girls, 8:30. K though 5th grade yeshiva boys and K through 8th grade yeshiva girls, at at 9:00. Yeshiva high school boys go home in the evening and night. Yeshiva high school girls go home at 5:00. High school and middle school public students at 2:45. 1-6th grade yeshiva boys at 4:00. 6-8th boys at 5:00. Yeshiva kindergarteners go home at 2:00. Public elementary students go home at 3:30.
    How is it cost efficient to outsource this? Each school bus costs around $40,000. A four million dollar investment will bring us one hundred buses. So what if we have to provide benefits for the drivers? These will be secure Lakewood jobs. Our town needs jobs. Lakewood people need secure jobs with benefits. Keeping a driver working all day, rather than the typical  one-time morning and afternoon drive as in other districts, will be very cost efficient.  Why should the bus companies get the windfall of our situation in Lakewood?
    We need to keep our tax dollars in town and provide our own residents with jobs. There are a lot of things that are done better by government than by private companies. Bus drivers employed by the district will be under our control providing better cooperation with school administrators facilitating student discipline on the bus.

  63. I jsut asked my kid’s driver as he dropped him off today if he was told that he has to work on thanksgiving. He had no idea what I was talking about. Could it be this rule applies only to some bus companies? Either way, its rotten and wont happen, don’t worry

  64. i’m a bus driver in Lakewood and enjoy my job very much. Its breaking my heart that I can’t be with my 5 children on this special day. They live in various places and this is 1 of the 2 holidays we are all able to get together until now. What a shame. Family is what life is all about. I love all the children i transport each day and don’t want to lose my job over something like this. What should I do?

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