06/12/13 — Smith misses meeting on bus fix plan

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Smith misses meeting on bus fix plan

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 12, 2013 1:46 PM

A meeting Tuesday to hear the action plan to remedy safety issues with school buses was canceled after the schools' transportation director was a no-show.

Raymond Smith, director of transportation for Wayne County Public Schools, was set to make a presentation to the school board's finance policy committee at the district's central office at 10 a.m.

The meeting had been announced June 6. At the June 3 board meeting, board member Arnold Flowers said he had asked the superintendent to arrange a time when Smith could present his reorganization plan.

"I was trying to go to bat for you, Mr. Smith," he said at the time. "I have seen your plan as far as transportation and I like (the) plan. I hope the board will get on board."

The request to see the action plan was prompted by concerns over the past two years' poor bus safety inspection scores by the state. Smith addressed the issue at the recent school board meeting, blaming part of the problem on high turnover of mechanics.

"We have developed a plan of action that's going to address our protocol for maintenance," he told the board.

On Tuesday, he was expected to present that report.

Terry Burden, district coordinator of the school's bus fleet, set up the projector for the presentation, but Smith reportedly had the thumb drive containing all the information.

One by one, meeting participants filed into the conference room for the meeting. In addition to Dr. Steven Taylor, the schools superintendent, and Nan Barwick, assistant superintendent for fiscal services, school board members Chris West and Rick Pridgen were in attendance.

Board member Thelma Smith is also a member of that committee.

Fifteen minutes passed. Then 30. Attempts to contact Smith by phone were unsuccessful.

The superintendent said he was unable to reach Smith at the bus garage and left messages in two places.

At 10:42, Burden maintained Smith "was en route."

As it drew closer to 11 o'clock, Pridgen and West said they had other commitments and asked about the protocol for rescheduling the meeting.

Taylor said setting up a meeting time requires 48 hours notice.

Since Smith and Mrs. Smith still hadn't arrived, the decision was made to adjourn. At 11:31 a.m., email notification was sent out that the committee meeting was rescheduled for Friday at 10 a.m.

School officials were contacted this morning to ask whether any reason was given for Smith's missing the meeting, why he did not respond to his employer's attempts to reach him and whether disciplinary action was taken.

Taylor was in a meeting and responded through Ken Derksen, director of communication services.

"Mr. Smith had a conflict in his schedule that took 45 minutes," Derksen said.

He would not specify as to the nature of the conflict and provided no additional information.

"Things come up in everybody's schedule," he said. "Certainly this meeting would have been held if other board members didn't have other commitments."