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King George ESPs Solve Problems, Win Respect

Too often, employee concerns are dismissed or swept under the rug.

But bus drivers in King George recently developed a process to bring employee issues to the attention of managers -- and to ensure that appropriate action is taken. As a result, they've won respect and doubled the number of bus driver members.
The drivers, members of the King George Education Association (KGEA), formed a Driver Leadership Council (DLC) of six members to ensure that the challenges and issues faced by working bus drivers do not slip through the cracks. They encouraged drivers to raise concerns and then met every week this past school year to follow-up.

"We had had meetings before, but they turned into gripe sessions," said John Day (pictured at right), secretary of the DLC. "The VEA [specifically, UniServ Director Levetta Nesbitt] was instrumental in getting us to the point of seeing that we had to figure out a way to resolve the issues, and the Driver Leadership Council was a step toward that," he said.

At a recent meeting, the DLC's focus on accountability was apparent. Group members went through each item raised in earlier meetings, discussed what action had or hadn't been taken, and mapped out how they'd address the issues in an upcoming meeting with central office officials. Among the concerns: inconsistent guidance on meal stops during after-school sports trips, lack of notification when new students were added to bus routes, and a request to prepare a procedure manual for drivers.

They made plans for what kind of documentation they'd bring to the meeting with transportation department officials and who would speak to each item. "We need to get our ducks in a row, go in professionally, and bring it up," Day urged them.

The DLC's systematic approach has yielded results in its first year. Until the DLC brought up the issue, 50 bus drivers competed for one computer in the driver lounge to fill out required reports. "We asked for and got them to add two more," Day said. Transportation also added screens in the drivers' area so employee-manager conferences could be conducted more privately.

Sometimes, when the DLC raises an issue, central office management asks them to study and make recommendations -- another way for the group to make sure drivers' perspectives are not ignored. The DLC played an important role in the development of evaluation criteria for drivers, and when it discovered that the school division's counseling form for drivers had no provision for an employee statement, they requested and won a change to the form to give drivers the opportunity to state their side of things.
The DLC's professional approach to problem-solving has helped the school system move past the "gripes" to fostering solutions, Day noted. "What we stress is that we are not here to rile anything up. We're trying to make life better and more tolerable. And the more we help people, the more respect we're getting. It's just been rewarding to see things change."

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