Fayette County scores 10 points below the state average when it comes to teachers feeling that an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect exists. Similarly, Fayette County lags 10 points behind the state when it comes to feeling comfortable raising important concerns. Even fewer teachers believe that there is an appropriate amount of input allowed teachers on decision making.
While not a part of the survey, the same concerns have been echoed by a growing number of district transportation employees for a number of months now. In fact, we've received a new batch of transportation documents that would seem to establish a generalized atmosphere of disrespect (and perhaps worse) and even ridicule of bus drivers. And it is very clear these drivers fear retaliation if district administrators were to discover that they have "talked out of school."
This perceived disrespect manifests itself in various ways but most consistently it seems to be a general tone - how the administration addresses the bus drivers. Folks know when they are being "talked down to" and they resent it. The drivers say it all starts with Director John Kiser.
For example, below is a photo sent to KSN&C of a notice that was taped next to the department of transportation time clocks recently, apparently instructing adults on what they may, and may not, do while using the restroom.
A little clarification might be in order.
The very-inclusive-sounding "WE" sheet referred to above, is a weekly missive from Kiser that announces events, and more often, instructions. But if the drivers are to be believed, it is also a place where the director ridicules certain individuals if he is unhappy with them for some reason. Although not personally identifiable, it is pretty clear that someone is being addressed, and those "in the know" (including drivers from time to time) are usually aware of who it is. Remember this?
Here's what one driver thinks the above message really says:
Kiser: I've already told you this, but apparently somebody is so stupid that I have to say it again. If you absolutely must use the restroom at a school, go one at a time. And you dummies need to be told what you can and can't do while you are in there....Now I remember enough from elementary school to know what #1 and #2 are, but it made me wonder if there was a #3. The driver reminded me that, for women, there is a #3 but it's apparently forbidden by the transportation department's potty police.
"I'm an adult. When I go in there I might wash my face and I'll certainly wash my hands. I don't need anybody telling me what my bodily functions are," one driver told KSN&C.
This driver said they called Human Resources downtown and told them about the sign. HR reportedly said, "Oh my God, you've got to be kidding me." The message was subsequently altered but not before the above photo was taken.
There is a leadership theory that suggests less-educated employees may need more direction than would be given highly-skilled professional personnel. I get that. But nowhere in that theory does it suggest that patronizing or humiliating language does anything to build the capacity of the work force or foster the camaraderie Kiser's "WE" would suggest. Sarcasm doesn't work as a means of improving the performance of students, and outside of boot camp, it doesn't work with adults either.
The drivers say they are told that the WE sheet should be taken as department policy. But a review of several We Sheets (...or is it the wee wee sheet now?) over several months reveals a tone and purpose that is inappropriate for any policy document.
For example, on February 24th, after one employee grumbled about not being selected for a promotion, instead of (or perhaps in addition to) talking to the individual personally the We Sheet carried an item on "Why I wasn't selected for Driver Trainer School" that said, "Was it because of my three preventable accidents? Was it because 13 of my last 17 absences were on a Monday or Friday?..."
On May 12th Kiser (or perhaps We sheet editor Mona Seratt) favored the staff with the definition of "prattle." Why? Was that a message to the troops that their complaints were meaningless?
Apparently, like when Kiser defined a "blogger," the We Sheet is used to send surreptitious messages. Well, the messages are getting through. And too often they spout disrespect.