By Ralph Echtinaw
Two St. Louis schools parents who complained to the school board last month about the behavior of their child’s bus driver sparked a review of procedures and rededication to keeping buses safe for all students.
Joe Joslin and Kendra Inbody delivered a petition to the school board signed by 13 parents who said they had problems with the same bus driver.
The driver was said to be too quick to write-up students, didn’t give parents details of what their children had done and didn’t get the write-up slips to parents in a timely fashion.
Superintendent Kristi Teall investigated the situation and reported back to the board Monday.
She said one driver had been letting middle school kids board the bus at the high school, and that has since been stopped. (Students are required to board the bus at the school they attend.)
“In March of last year we met with the bus drivers because we were having a lot of discipline issues not only in classroom but also on the bus,” Teall told the board. “And so we got together last month and put a new protocol in place so that when drivers were to call home they had to do three things: They needed to tell the parents the behavior that is expected. They needed to tell the parents what their son or daughter was doing. And then they needed to tell them what was expected again and why. Because we’re trying to help our parents understand why it’s not okay to stand in the seat when the bus is driving down the road or something like that.”
Teall said that most of the district’s bus drivers were writing the exact bad behavior on write-up slips and phoning parents promptly. But not all drivers were being that diligent.
The solution is that Transportation Director Cliff Gamber will not sign off on discipline unless the exact non-conforming behavior is listed.
Teall said that getting parents on the phone is not always easy. Often they don’t answer and don’t call back after a message is left. Sometimes they call back after hours when no one is there to answer the phone. Some parents get new phone numbers frequently, so when a bus driver makes a call he can’t get a hold of the parent in question.
As for write-up slips not getting to parents in a timely manner, Teall said she doesn’t have a remedy for that because the slips must pass through at least two sets of hands internally before they can be sent to parents. “I’d rather have the situation checked into as opposed to sending a child home with a slip without having everything checked into,” Teall said.
The superintendent tracked bus write-ups last year because there were discipline issues, and the driver who Joslin and Inbody complained about was fourth out of eight in write-ups.
Overall, discipline referrals on buses are down 53 percent from a year ago at this time, Teall said.
With upwards of 600 kids riding buses every school day, St. Louis Schools have had just 68 discipline referrals as of Feb. 1, Teall said. “That’s not too terribly bad. I think we’re doing pretty good.” Teall added that bus driver is one of the most difficult positions in the district; even more so than her job.
Additions and subtractions
The board accepted the resignations of fourth grade teacher Jessica Lucchesi, middle school track coach Sheila Saurman, middle school girls basketball and volleyball coach Tiffany Watson and varsity girls basketball coach Brian Tomanek.
The board approved the hiring of Tiffany Watson as varsity girls volleyball coach, Matthew Bernia as middle school boys track coach and a leave of absence for Stacy Hirchman.
Jeff Baxter, Don Kelley, Greg Walterhouse, Carrie Beeson, John Pavlik and Carrie Salladay were present. Kelly Bebow was absent.