United Steel Workers Union leader Jim Buckley delivered a clear, albeit brief, message to Metro Board of Education members Tuesday night: Metro bus drivers, who have been calling in sick this year in higher numbers than last, are not doing so to take part in union-sponsored, organized sick outs.
And while the school board is not taking sides per se, they are taking the bus drivers at their word.
Buckley, who attended to “rebut media reports” to the contrary, told board members that the drivers are focused on their jobs, and not feigning illness to prove a point.
“Our main focus,” he said, “is on the safe and timely transportation of students to and from school.”
Board chair Gracie Porter said, for now, she is satisfied with the explanation.
“I can’t really say it was a sick out,” she said. “If employees say they’re sick, that’s what we have to believe.”
Porter also echoed Buckley’s assertion that the focus is on safety.
“You don’t do your job well if you’re ill,” she said. “And if people are sick, we certainly don’t want them driving a bus.”
Later in the meeting, board member Kay Simmons presented changes in policy regarding the approval of new charter schools. Changes in wording will broaden the scope of the board’s examination regarding charter schools applicants. Until now, the board was presented only with applications that the board’s Charter Schools Committee wanted to approve. Simmons explained that the new wording will require a more comprehensive report.
Instead of reviewing only those applications recommended for approval — and missing out on those sometimes eliminated due to errors in paperwork, time constraints, etc. — the board will now receive a full report from Metro Nashville Public Schools Director Dr. Jesse Register.
“We’ve asked Dr. Register to ask for a complete listing of all applications with indications of why they weren’t moved on,” Simmons said.
Register said he is hopeful that the change will improve Nashville’s future charter schools and emphasized the desire to find the best applicants possible.
“It’s about giving the board more information about all applicants,” Register said. “Ultimately, we want to identify the best applicants. We want good charter schools.”