Thursday, May 19, 2011

Respect and Disrespect

Amid the good news for Fayette County Schools, gleaned from the recent TELL Survey, are a couple of bothersome items that mirror comments made by KSN&C readers on occasion. Many teachers feel disrespected. Not only that, but they feel unable to voice concerns.

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.


Anonymous said...

This is probably off topic but I think this deserves some consideration. Based upon recent census results, LFUCG is going to be redrawing council districts to make sure the population is roughly equal. Districts 1 and 3 have lost population while 12 and 2 have exploded. Along these same lines, why does Fayette County with 295,000 people have only 5 school board members? Are these districts equal in population? Why can't we have 7 districts like Jefferson County does? Wouldn't additional members to the board make it more accountable to the public?

Anonymous said...

Wow, just about covers it all!!!!

Anonymous said...

I am one of those FCPS teachers who feels demoralized. As a teacher, I am told to follow orders. Everything is prefaced with "Stu wants..." I am told not to question anything. I've learned not to.

I listen as the principal says "Offer proof that you have differentiated instruction." "Make sure you are following the Core Content." "Make sure you can justify why Tom received an F in your class." My principal barks out orders, then he never shows up in the classroom until evaluation time.

I am a nothing. I am a cog in the wheel. I can say nothing without fear of retaliation. I work for Fayette County Public Schools, and I'm one who gave my principal the low marks he deserved.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm a teacher at Glendover. We were told by a top ranking administrator from Fayette County Prblic Schools that the author of the petition is misinformed. We were also told that we would receive a letter of reprimand if we signed the petition.

Anonymous said...

Richard, did anyone do their homework on the zoo trip? Only two drivers made the round trip to the zoo, they both drove 15 hours between them, 30 hours total that day. Call any trucking company and they will tell you that after 11 hours of over-the-road driving, the driver must be off for 14 hours straight to sleep. Did the bus drivers report to work the next morning? I'll help you out, "yes they did" and worked their regular shift. The board member should have been upset, our children where riding with drivers without proper rest, each driver drove well over 400 miles a day, well over 800 miles between them both,together they made 8 trips back and forth to the zoo in one day, guess what time the zoo closed, 5:00 pm, the drivers left Lexington at 5pm. As a parent I have some major concerns about the "leadership" in transportation, my child was not on this trip, but this is unacceptable, is this Kiser's first year as a director, who oversees him, Mary Wright, what is going on is anyone paying attention to the leadership? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing to our attention as to what is really happening in transportation, as a parent my child is always on field-trips , not any more this is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

The morale under Kiser is very low, I am a monitor and have had my dealings with supervisor's and manager's, some of these people are clueless, Kiser is out of touch and not involved, he's to busy making his "weekly sheet" so he can put down others.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever been on a bus in the summer, do you have any idea of the temperature on the buses, do you drive a bus to know how much it bounces you and your bladder? If your answer is "NO" to the above questions, then don't feel bad, John Kiser has not either, otherwise he would not print ridiculous guidelines, where is Mayor Grey, maybe he will get something done, he's correcting the fire department and hes looking into the police department, at least the public sees hes trying.

Richard Day said...

I did not look into this, but I did wonder if there weren't some OSHA regulations governing hot work places and the availability of water.

Anonymous said...

I hate to sound pessimistic but John Kiser will NEVER EVER be held accountable no matter how many complaints and lawsuits come through the district office concerning him. Why not you ask? Two words - Mary Wright. He has Mary in his back pocket and she is nesting there without apology.

Does anyone find it strange that with so much heat coming out of Transportation John Kiser is still in a leadership role? Even the Board is silent on this? Mary believes in protecting her own and dares reproach...mark my words - John Kiser is here to stay. Mary will make sure of it.