03/06/13 — Board wants drivers, dialogue

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Board wants drivers, dialogue

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 6, 2013 1:46 PM

School board members Tuesday night reiterated their stance on two issues -- providing a secure way for district teachers and staff to express concerns without fear of recrimination and finding bus drivers.

On several occasions, John P. Grantham, board chairman, has encouraged employees of Wayne County Public Schools to communicate with the school board. At the January meeting, he suggested there be a means to submit suggestions or concerns anonymously.

In response, the district put together an "Employee Feedback System" for consideration at the March meeting.

Olivia Pierce, executive director, information and technology services, said the option would be added to the schools' website, deemed "most expedient" for eliciting feedback.

"This would not be visible to the public," she explained, adding that employees could submit comments that would be received by Mrs. Pierce as site administrator and then forwarded to the schools superintendent.

"Would that be difficult to just go online ourselves?" asked Chris West, board vice chairman.

"I would like it for the board to be able to go on the website and see what (the comments) are," Grantham said.

"I would like for the board to have access to see all the comments," West said.

"I think what I'm hearing from Mr. West, and maybe Mr. Grantham, also for myself as a board member, I would not want anything screened," board member Arnold Flowers said. "I would want to see all of the comments."

Board member Dwight Cannon questioned the anonymity factor and how secure the system would be in terms of identifying employees or the schools where they work.

"Those who have administrative sites would be able to see that email address," Mrs. Pierce said. "I think the anonymous feature is that we don't share the names."

"I share Mr. Cannon's concerns," Grantham said. "I really want it to be anonymous."

Ideally, he added, there would be no repercussions for any employee raising issues, but at the same time human nature is to be hesitant to be totally honest if there is the possibility that employers might see the comments.

"We may have to look at another tool," Mrs. Pierce said.

West asked how soon the system could be put into place.

"It can be done almost instantaneously," Mrs. Pierce replied.

"I just want people to know that we really do care what they have to say," Grantham said.

Flowers raised questions about the need for sufficient bus drivers, particularly in the Spring Creek area, which at the outset of the school year forced changing start and dismissal times.

He said he had received calls from several parents, especially those with children at both schools, where opening times were changed to 7:45 a.m. at the high school and 8:30 a.m. at the elementary school, forcing many to "kill time" in-between.

"In the early part of this year when we started with the school year, I brought this up and we talked about it," he said. "The general consensus was we were going to do it because we had to. ... Parents would have to do whatever they had to do to get their children in school, but it's a hardship.

"It was my understanding that we were going to do to this until we could hire enough bus drivers."

Flowers suggested the board consider other possible options.

"I want to help (transportation director Raymond Smith) to hire more bus drivers, or whatever we need to do," he said. "I feel like we can do better than this."

Flowers said one obstacle might be restrictions placed upon bus drivers, such as the requirement of having a CDL license.

"Making a bus driver have a CDL is overkill," he said, explaining that in most cases, when a bus breaks down, the driver doesn't do repairs but calls someone else.

"Maybe we have set the standards, or somebody has set the standards so high that we're just having a hard time living up to the standard. That's what I would like our board to get on."

Grantham agreed that the bus issue has been a nagging problem this school year, which needs to be looked into further.