07/11/14 — District hires new chief for school transportation

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District hires new chief for school transportation

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 11, 2014 1:46 PM

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Robert C. Lee III

Less than two months after the Wayne County Public Schools transportation director was fired after a fourth consecutive failed school bus inspection, an Air Force veteran has been hired to fill the post.

Robert C. Lee III, of LaGrange, was previously employed with the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles and served in the Air Force for 26 years before retiring in 2006 as a first sergeant.

In 2001, he earned an associate degree in computer information systems and an associate degree in human resources management. He received a bachelor's degree in computer information systems from Mount Olive College.

In the years since, he has been a driver education program specialist for Lenoir, Wayne and Jones counties.

"In his role, he has supported school bus transportation departments by keeping them abreast of NCDMV and North Carolina Department of Public Instruction requirements," said Ken Derksen, director of communication services for WCPS. "Mr. Lee trained and certified school bus drivers and provided training and certification for commercial driver training instructors.

"He conducted defensive driving courses, driver improvement clinics and bus safety programs. In addition to inspecting commercial driver training schools and vehicles for compliance with state laws, Mr. Lee also investigated complaints involving commercial driver training schools."

Lee's arrival follows an upheaval within the district's transportation department, including the firing of his predecessor -- the son of a former member of the school board.

The school system has received poor safety scores four times in a row during the state's annual routine inspection of the bus fleet. In January, the district's marks were at 85.85 on a scale of zero to 100 -- zero is a perfect score -- with 13 of the 23 randomly chosen buses inspected pulled from the roads because of safety violations.

At that time, WCPS Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor called for a restructuring of the transportation department and invited the state to return after 60 days to conduct an additional inspection.

But that inspection, which took place in May, resulted in a score of 73.10, with four of the 10 buses chosen parked due to safety issues -- and led to the termination of 10-year transportation director Raymond Smith.

Taylor said he was confident in the new hire.

"We think we have a very good candidate to fill that position," he said. "We're excited about him getting started and, of course, any new leadership that comes in, they will look at the entire department and determine what, if any, restructuring or reorganization must be put in place -- particularly to get the job done with regard to those buses."