Education

Fayette superintendent launches transportation department review

Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton says he's working on a wide-ranging plan to address continuing employee complaints and concerns in the district's transportation department.

"We are looking at everything, including the organizational structure within transportation," Shelton said. "Does it fit, is it working, is it part of the issue?"

Shelton said the plan would be part of a broad overview of policies and procedures across the district, but he gave no time line for completing it. He said he "couldn't elaborate" on personnel matters.

Shelton said he received an email from unnamed transportation department employees last month, raising personnel issues and complaining about the work environment in the department.

The anonymous message, which came soon after Shelton visited transportation department offices and talked with some workers there, used the email address of someone who does not work for the school system, according to the superintendent.

Shelton sent an email reply, telling the workers "you can be assured I am developing a plan to deal with these issues." He also said school board members "are aware" of the concerns.

Transportation employees have been making similar anonymous complaints about working conditions in the department for more than a year. Shelton said he began hearing them shortly after being named superintendent in June.

News of the latest, emailed complaints surfaced last week on Kentucky School News and Commentary, a Lexington-based education blog.

Late last year, Shelton planned to conduct an investigation into issues at the transportation department. But that plan was suspended on the advice of attorneys after Sherry King, a former Fayette County school bus driver, sued the school system alleging she had been sexually harassed. King also alleged that she was bullied and intimidated by transportation officials after filing a grievance.

The suit, which names transportation director John Kiser, other department officials and members of the school board, is pending in Fayette Circuit Court.

Shelton said this week that with the planned transportation department inquiry suspended, he intends to look at the department as part of a broad overview.

"It's (an) overview of the entire district, and specifically about transportation. Are we meeting our objective, which is to provide safe rides to and from school for our students," he said.

"We're looking at policies and procedures, particularly ones that deal with employee discipline. We are looking at committee structures, such as committees that could maybe help us develop or revise policies for incentives, discipline and safety procedures."

In their email, the anonymous employees cited some instances of transportation employees who, they alleged, do little or no work.

Shelton said he already was aware of those situations, "but, obviously, I couldn't elaborate."

"When you hear enough concerns and complaints, it justifies an investigation," Shelton said.

He said that while the pending lawsuit precluded the possibility of such an inquiry now, "that can't stop us from making sure we have an efficient and effective department with the best policies and procedures."

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