COMPTON — Bus drivers and mechanics from the state-administered Compton Unified School District held a mock funeral procession Tuesday to protest the privatization of the district's transportation department.
At least 75 workers, union representatives and their supporters demonstrated against a $3-million contract recently awarded by Randall Ward, the district's state-appointed administrator, to First Student, a private bus company.
The procession, which included a coffin, started at Compton Boulevard and Willowbrook Avenue and ended at the Compton school headquarters at 604 S. Tamarind Ave., where the school board was in session.
Michael Moore, an official of the American Federation of Teachers, said about 50 drivers, mechanics and clerical workers will lose their jobs if they are not placed in other district positions.
Demonstrators said Ward approved the new bus contract even though the school board unanimously recommended against it.
The state administrator, they added, has not proved his assertion that privatizing the transportation department will save money and improve service.
"Ward is an outsider," Moore said. "We have a vested interest in the success of the school district. He cannot show that there are deficiencies in the school's bus service."
Moore said Ward has refused to discuss the transportation department with the American Federation of Teachers, which was certified in July to represent 650 district workers, including bus drivers, mechanics and clerks. The federation replaced a previous union.
State officials assumed control of Compton Unified in 1994 to correct severe financial and academic problems. For the past several years, the city's elected officials and school board members have been trying to restore local authority over the district.