Three drivers, mechanic not retained by schools

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Three of the Marshall County school system bus drivers and one mechanic have received notification that their contracts will not be renewed for the 2009-2010 school year.

"We've lost some great drivers with long experience," said Curt Denton, chairman of the transportation committee, in his report to the school board meeting last week. "We also lost a good mechanic through non-rehire. It's very unfortunate."

"We're six bus drivers short," said Denton in a phone interview. "I know he's not going to do away with six routes."

Stan Curtis, director of schools, gave no answer as to why the employees had been let go. They are Larry Barler, Jennifer Noller, Rheba Walls, drivers, and Randy Lowe, mechanic. All four claim to have "near perfect" evaluations and attendance records, and say that other drivers with less seniority, as well as some with complaints on their records have been retained.

"None of us had routes that could be consolidated or combined," said Barler, "We've seen no evidence of any bus routes being eliminated."

The school system's Web site is still advertising for bus drivers.

A school board member who requested Barler's personnel file, to check out his annual performance evaluations, received everything - including his medical records.

"I want to go on record: the Marshall County Board of Education released my medical information to another individual without my permission," Barler said after the meeting. "I may have to get a lawyer," he added.

Board members noted that the new supervisor of transportation, formerly a teacher, is still on a 10-month contract.

"Transportation's a 10-month position?" asked Denton incredulously. "I'd just like to know who's going to supervise the two months he's not going to be there." Denton pointed out that during the summer is when the big maintenance jobs are done on the buses, and also when the state inspections take place.

"Maybe you can talk with Dr. Curtis about this some other time," said chairwoman Ann Tears. "We're talking about when the transportation committee met and what they decided - I want to kind of stay on topic."

"I'm asking you now," persisted board member Craig Michael. "I thought that's why we had board meetings: to discuss issues!"

"Committee meetings," recommended Mark Wilkerson. "That's the best place to address these questions that cause some concern."

Denton confirmed that the transportation committee would be meeting tomorrow at 5 p.m. for a full discussion of the new transportation supervisor's salary, job description, and period of employment.

Also on the subject of transportation, the board heard a presentation from technology supervisor Suzanne Ingram on the Edulog software that will be used to make the bus routes more efficient.

"This is the old Edulog," said Ingram, holding up a binder stuffed full of papers. Now, however, student data - names, addresses, bus routes - is all incorporated in the Edulog program.

"Safety alone makes it worthwhile," she said, citing the fact that Edulog can tell exactly which children are on any bus at any point in its route - very helpful in case there is an accident. Up-to-the-minute bus routes can be printed out for a substitute driver's information, instead of having to rely on hand-written notes from the regular driver. The program also maintains the children's discipline records for all the years they ride the bus in Marshall County.

"Has it been a pain? Yes, because we had to start from scratch," said Ingram. She is pleased with the result, however, and says she was very impressed by the depth of knowledge transportation supervisor Glen Ezell and his secretary, Beth Isley, have about the school system.

"How many systems have it, and how many dollars have they saved?" asked Michael.

Ingram replied that she knew of 14 systems in the mid-state, including Williamson County and Metro Nashville. "It's the number one program in the U.S.," she said.

Under repeated questioning from Michael, Ingram admitted that no system had told her how much they had saved by using Edulog. "They didn't want to spend time doing my research," she said. "All said they saved."

Ingram also made a point of correcting a Tribune article that appeared on March 6. In it, Denton is quoted as saying, "It scared me when I heard Maury County had Edulog for four years before they used it, and then they had to hire a person to run it."

"Maury County did not have to hire an extra person," said Ingram. "I want to make it clear and public record that they did not have to do that."

"That's how it was told to us," asserted Denton. In a phone interview, he added, "The lady told us it was too complicated. We spent $28,000 and all that it is, is an organizer. It's going to have to prove its worth."