Tuesday, March 20, 2012

FCPS Transportation Manager Openly Flaunts District Policy

Evidence of a Double Standard in FCPS Transportation Dept 

Board considering a new policy requiring all board owned vehicles to be kept at work


One of the underlying complaints Fayette County Public Schools Transportation Department employees have leveled against Director John Kiser and his administrative staff is that there is a clear double standard when it comes to following the rules. To hear the drivers tell it, if you are among the favored, the rules don't apply to you. If not, they do. Most often heard is the complaint that drivers are suspended if they get a scratch on a vehicle, while Kiser's several dings have gone unremarked on. But that's not all.

In January 2011, KSN&C asked then Superintendent Stu Silberman about another allegation, that a certain transportation department administrator routinely used a district vehicle as her personal car - even to the point that when she was on sick leave, the car was at her home in Jessamine County and not available for district use by Fayette County.

District Spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall told KSN&C that Silberman checked into the allegation and "found nothing to substantiate that the car has been used for personal use."

I don't doubt Silberman. I'm sure he asked Operations honcho Mary Browning to look into it. I'm sure she, in turn, asked John Kiser to look into it. And, whaddya know, Kiser could not find any evidence of personal use of a public vehicle on the part of Kim Webb his Terminal Manager at Liberty Road.

Forced to choose between believing the superintendent or their own eyes, the drivers were left feeling a bit disappointed by district inaction. It reinforced the double standard in their minds. But it was also something they did not forget.

So yesterday, KSN&C was gifted with some photos - call it evidence - that substantiate the drivers' claim that Webb indeed uses her public vehicle for private use, and she transports at least one family member routinely. The drivers say it's such a regular occurrence that they had no trouble knowing where she would be one beautiful afternoon this week, just before 5:30 pm when the after-school program closes at Breckinridge Elementary.

The following are "pictures of terminal manger Kim [Webb] using her dept SUV for private use to pick up relative after school."

No one questions whether Webb ought to have access to a district vehicle. Her responsibilities include checking roads on winter nights/mornings, and she serves as the district "point-of-contact" during evening,  weekend and holiday hours. She is called upon to respond to operational concerns while driving to and from work, and the vehicle helps her remain in radio contact with the terminal.

But personal use of district vehicles is prohibited by policy. So is the transportation of family members. These policy restrictions are a good idea since there are insurance implications whenever a district vehicle risks being involved in an accident during non-authorized use or with non-district persons on board.

(In addition - and I'm just thinkin' out loud here - if Webb drives daily from her Jessamine County home to Breckinridge School, does that also mean that the children in question are attending school - not out of district - but out of county? Unless  Fayette County has a reciprocal agreement with Jessamine County, somebody is probably losing money in this sweetheart deal. Lots of parents have been known to fabricate addresses for out of area students. Is that what's happening? Perhaps there is a good explanation for this, but I'm not sure what it would be unless the children actually live somewhere in Fayette County and Webb detours to get them home - which would also be a violation of district policy.)

The FCPS Vehicle Usage Policy states:
"Board of Education (BOE) vehicles shall be used only in the performance of BOE business, including meetings, conferences and other related events. As approved, assigned vehicles may be driven to and from work. BOE vehicles shall not be used for private or personal business outside the normal work day. Personnel are prohibited from transporting personal property from one place to another....

BOE vehicles will not be used to transport family members or other passengers not engaged in BOE business...

Maximum economic and efficient use shall be made of all BOE vehicles. Unnecessary driving will not be permitted or tolerated. Employees will take the most direct route to, from and between job assignments...

Any employee assigned a vehicle found to be in violation of these policies will be subject to discipline and revocation of assigned vehicle."
Why isn't district policy being followed by the transportation manager whose responsibilities include making sure that district policies are followed? Will this breach result in disciplinary action against Webb?  Or, will it be business as usual in the FCPS transportation department?

Although he had not seen the photos above before yesterday, Superintendent Tom Shelton has heard this kind complaint from transportation employees before. He now has a little more substance to lend to his internal review of district policies, procedures and practices. One suspects it will be harder for Director Kiser to deny the evidence. Photos, being a non-discursive media, can be difficult to argue with.

Shelton told KSN&C,
Of course we do not know the circumstances related to these pictures since they were not shared with us in order to allow us an opportunity to investigate. However, this type of report has been shared with us before and has led us to consider a new policy requiring all board owned vehicles to be kept at work unless they are checked out through a carpool arrangement. This is part of the overall review I have referred to in previous comments.


Anonymous said...

Who's paying for all the gas? As a
taxpayer I'd like to know. As an
employee of Transportation I know this has been going on for years
and nothing will ever be done about
it. As far as I'm concerned it's stealing from the taxpayers

Anonymous said...

To be completely fair Tom Shelton
needs to terminate the Managers at
both garages and most of the supervisors that were hired because of who they know not what they know. It would save FCPS a lot of money to start with all new management. Marcus Dobbs gets my vote. Just don't renew their contracts for another year

Anonymous said...

Looks like some new Ford Explorer which I am guessing gets about 20 miles to a gallon. (Sorry, not a care expert). Not to mention policy breaches and liability for transporting family. Even if she only put 20 or 30 miles a day on it doing personal errands, that would equal about 5 bucks in fuel. Wonder what they would do with a teacher who each day walked out with a stapler or a couple of reams of paper for personal use?

Anonymous said...

If truth be told she has being doing this for years with her own son who attended Jessie M. Clark Middle School.Something really needs to be done in Transportation.

Anonymous said...

I think the "inside" person putting out all this personal information about the employees out in the public should be the first on the firing list! There are confidential clauses in the policies about publishing the where abouts of the students. I agree that no one should have cars to take home. And no one should check the roads, just go to school anyway and hope the children make their destination unscathed. And when you fire all the manager types in transportation; they need to hire from the streets because NO ONE, especially disgruntled drivers, in transportation is qualified or smart enough to run the place. Let Donnie Trump run the place, he likes to say "You're Fired!" Your friend, Susan!

Richard Day said...

Thanks for the Comments y'all.

March 21, 2012 9:10 AM: We may have different ideas about the desirability of transparent government. When whistleblowers reveal waste, fraud or abuse I generally think it's a good thing for society. It keeps everyone on notice that policies were meant to be followed and I suspect, keeps down the amount of waste within large systems to some degree.

Since nobody would dare claim that Ms Webb picking up children from school constitutes some state secret that the government has a compelling interest in protecting, I see no reason to withhold the driver's complaints. I'm hopeful that the superintendent will get to the bottom of it.

If you think I did something wrong by announcing to the world that there are actual children at Breckinridge Elementary School I apologize.

I also disagree with... well... pretty much the rest of your comment: but perhaps you were joking.

Anonymous said...

mr day you should be given a medal for doing what you do for the employes
of the school system and under the kiser.susan is whats wrong with the place.the end is near for her type and kiser and his crew.the dam at lake kiser is showing signs of large cracks and it wont be long before it breaks .

Anonymous said...

I assume you mean that Ms. Webb "flouts" district policy, and that she "flaunts" her misuse of a company vehicle. She certainly isn't flaunting district policy by ignoring it.

(flaunt means "show off" and flout means "treat with contempt")

Richard Day said...

March 21, 2012 12:50 PM:

Good one.

Actually, right or wrong, I did mean flaunt, as in - unwisely making a public display or "flaunting the law" - but I take your point.

transitive verb
1: to display ostentatiously or impudently : parade
2: to treat contemptuously

Merriam Webster Usage Discussion of FLAUNT says:

"Although transitive sense 2 of flaunt undoubtedly arose from confusion with flout, the contexts in which it appears cannot be called substandard . If you use it, however, you should be aware that many people will consider it a mistake."

Anonymous said...

I have seen time and time again the excuse making of Central Office. The last post is clearly written by a Central Office employee, and it is designed to intimidate and spread fear among readers of this blog. Already people have been warned not access this at work.

In the end, and I think Dr. Richard Day knows this, the buck stops in the office of the Superintendent. Mr.Silberman and Dr. Shelton are responsible for the behavior in Transportation.

More disturbing: the silence of the Board of Education. Where are they? Where are their comments ? Are they listening?

Will this article be placed in the Herald Leader? And, who took the pictures here?

Anonymous said...

Sahem on these people...Shame on the local newspaper for not reporting this.



Anonymous said...

Velma Jean Johnson--- Thank you for standing up! But Mr. Kiser and Melodee are still my bosses as is Tom Shelton, and they scare me to death.

I need to work....It's about kids. Yeah right!

Anonymous said...

When you post something on this blog check your spelling This is supposed to be a school commentary

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Jesus is listening....

LT said...

Let he without sin cast the first stone......

It seems easier to point a finger outward than it is to point it inward. Learn to take responsibility for one's own actions.

True enough, there are some valid concerns & complaints; there are some negative issues with the Division, but there are problems within every business and/or organization.

Some of the issues that people are bringing to light are so petty and vindictive that it is beyond comprehension.

Everyone has different thoughts and views; not all people will get along or agree with one another nor will they agree on certain aspects of policy and procedure, but without order there can be no order.

Eventually, all of this will come to a head and the District may decide to contract all school bus services to outside agencies due to the time and energy being spent on petty issues; thus leaving FCPS without its own bus fleet and a bunch of people without jobs.

Realize we are so fortunate to even have jobs with the economic doom that is transcending everywhere.

Final point is if you don't like something then fine..either deal with it or find a way to make a positive change. Just remember folks, you work for a Government Entity and it's a lifestyle that you have chosen.


Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Day; When you post the photo of a child of a public employee and where they go to school, you put them in danger from disgruntled employees who aim to do harm. We do not allow our children to be recognized in photographs for this very reason. I do not know all my enemies but I do know I have a few who might stoop pretty low to hurt my family. And remember one thing, Mr. Day, whistle blowers were Hitler's forte. He loved them! He praised highly people who led him to his enemies, the Jews. Love, Susan

Richard Day said...

March 21, 2012 2:04 PM: I have no doubt that there are differing opinions on the leadership style in transportation. There always are. Some folks believe that heavy-handed control is necessary to “make the trains run on time,” if you will forgive the Mussolini reference.

In an organization the size of FCPS, with so many moving parts, it usually takes a while to make changes in how people conduct business. But ultimately, it is the superintendent who sets the tone by a combination of his actions and how he is perceived to conduct himself. I’m sure there are days when superintendents want to pull their hair out over some bone-headed action that a subordinate took, that they didn’t agree with, and for which the superintendent will be held responsible.

As for the board, we probably don’t want board members routinely commenting on the day-to-day controversies of school administration. That could easily lead to a divisive situation where competing ideas among board members lead to political posturing, which makes it very difficult for a superintendent to operate effectively. We’ve seen many school boards bog down over such occurrences and it’s a problem for schools and children. I have reason to believe that board members and the superintendent are wired into this issue and that’s the best circumstance. If the superintendent and board agree that changes need to occur it leaves the superintendent on a much stronger footing to do whatever needs to be done.

When Amanda Ferguson broke with Stu Silberman over the outsourcing of legal counsel it was late in the game and after some internal frustrations. She was having trouble getting the superintendent to share information with her. Since Shelton has taken over, things have quieted down. I take that as one sign of unity.

I have no idea if the Herald-Leader is interested in this topic. I’m sure they are approached by disgruntled employees of some organization or another all the time. They have to consider if it is “news.”

KSN&C is a niche education blog and operates under a looser set of standards – mainly, if a story is interesting to me, and I have the time, I run it. In this case, I was first approached by a small group of transportation employees who were tired of witnessing how some other folks were treated in the department. They forwarded information and documents to KSN&C that validated their concerns and I decided to give them a platform to be heard. Some of that information is the subject of litigation now. Since that time I have heard from another dozen or so employees who shared additional stories about how folks are treated.

As for revealing sources, such as who took the photos, I operate under the “Tim Russert rule” – absent a subpoena, I don’t reveal sources (but I’m not going to jail over a blog post).

Velma Jean Johnson: Thanks for your courageous comment. I suspect there have been a few things brought to light in these pages that could lead to positive change. At least, I hope so. I’m glad you enjoy your work. Giving students access to good teachers has been the most important issue (along with the adequacy of that education) in public schooling over the past…well…almost two centuries now. I hope John Kiser and his administrative staff constantly remind all drivers of how important a role they play in, literally, delivering educational opportunity and student success in the district.

Similarly, Susan went about half-way, and I appreciate her public stance. Although it’s hard to get in trouble by agreeing with the power structure, the real heroes of American history were not anonymous, they risked….everything. BUT, our founders were fighting for liberty and freedom. This situation is not of that magnitude, of course, and I respect those who put their family needs (like having a job) first, and choose to remain anonymous. Still, I wonder what would happen if everyone spoke up.

Richard Day said...

LT: Thanks for the comment.

I seriously doubt that the transportation division is a good candidate for outsourcing. And, I would be shocked if any board member was even thinking about that.

From my experience the FCPS transportation division runs fairly efficiently. I don't think anyone, even his harshest critics, believe that John Kiser lacks the ability to manage the system. The concerns in this case lie more in how people get treated in the process, and there seems to be sufficient cause for concern.

With rare exceptions, I found the drivers, supervisors and Kiser to be responsive to principals' concerns and, on a day-to-day basis, the buses ran safely and well. That is a credit to lots of folks including Kiser. But clearly, some things need fixin'.

March 22, 2012 8:29 AM: I appreciate your concern. But if you choose to click on the photo you will find that the students face is not identifiable. I blurred it out.

Anonymous said...


As a transportation employee, I can tell you when I think the walls started coming down around the transportation empire: the departure of Stu Silberman. The protection for the transportation emperor is now gone and an actual review of everything going on here is occurring.

With respect to the school board, don't you think leaving Barnett's kid in Cincinnati a year ago got his attention about the stuff going on over here? I know a lot of us contacted him right after that and he was still pretty furious about all of that. Don't think he's forgotten about that. Watching him grill Kiser at a school board about this stupid GPS system and watching Stu lose it with Barnett with Shelton in attendance was also fun to watch. I think he's been pretty supportive of the employees of this district.

I have faith that it will get better, but something needs to happen soon.

Richard Day said...

March 22, 2012 1:26 PM: I can't argue with your interpretation. I have reason to believe that Silberman bought into the intimidation angle a bit. ...may have even emboldened how Kiser went about things. (Although he lost a six-figure federal claim against him way back when [5:99-CV-121; I guess that's US District court.]

Stu and I are roughly the same vintage (old) and I have wondered if he had Robert Ringer's Winning Through Intimidation (1973) on his bookshelf next to John Maxwell's stuff. Some hybrid of those approaches seems to reflect his management behavior, so far as I could tell.

I think Doug Barnett has his heart in the right place although he's probably at his best when he tempers his lawyerly bluster. But I don't know that it took his Cincy experience to get him on board with the transportation concerns. I had a chat with him fairly early and I suspect he was already concerned for the employees. But the field trip did provide some more salt for his wound... and amusement for the rest of us.

Faith and hope abide.

Anonymous said...

to the people who say be glad you have a job now and dont complain.rember germany what happened. i didnt say anything when they came for the jews.i didnt say anything when they came for the sick i didnt say anything when then came for the gypes. i didnt say anything when they came for the gays and no one said a word when they came for me. evil runs wild when good people do nothing.

Anonymous said...

This is a very serious and frightening situation at Central Office.I think that there are some employees who are in grave danger.

Brenda Allen, are you out there?

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to those involved in this situation, I can't believe how many responses misuse of a school vehical has elicited. Obviously, this is a site frequencted primarily by FCPS folks.

In someways it is a little disappointing that other instructional issues on this blog which are probably or greater relavancy to educating all children (as opposed to one department in one district's disgruntled employees and alleged leadership misbehavior) don't get a single comment.

Anonymous said...

Disgruntled employees? Nope, abused employees....

What happens in Fayette County is watched by other school districts in the state.

Anonymous said...

Fear Level is intesifying. I work at Central Office. Another firing in Human Resources. No, not Melodee Parker. Trumped up charges against good employees. Fact of life in Fayette County Schools. You should hear what the cabal there is saying about this Blog.

Brenda Allen said...

To March 22, 2012 8:32; Yes, indeed I am out there. Busy representing lots of Fayette County school parents, employees and former employees. I have been out of the loop for a bit and really have missed this blog! Richard, you continue to do a beautiful job on shedding a light on issues that would otherwise go unnoticed. The photos and story are interesting and worth following to conclusion. Doing the right thing is sometimes difficult and often unpopular, but incredubly rewarding. I have met with Superintendent Shelton many, many times with clients and my first impressions are that he has a good sense of right and wrong. Here's hoping he does what's right by all of you--parents, students and employees. Time will tell.

Richard Day said...

Good to hear from you Brenda. Thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Dear Brenda,

I am so pleased to see you are back. You give a lot of us hope that things can change in Fayette County Public Schools.


A Beaumont Middle School Teacher

Anonymous said...

WHat happens in Fayette County is viewed by other districts in the state? Really?

Trust me, the rest of us are pretty busy just educating our own kids beyond the golden triangle. Don't really have time to analyze what Fayette county is doing and by the sounds of those contributing to this story, I am best to avoid following it, at least in practice.