'Serious need' for changes in CCSD bus shop
by Kim Isaza
kisaza@mdjonline.com
March 05, 2010 01:00 AM | 4606 views | 64 64 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Obviously, some feel Cobb School District Director Rick Grisham is doing a good job, but grand jury presentments announced Thursday tend to indicate otherwise. <br>Photo by Laura Moon
Obviously, some feel Cobb School District Director Rick Grisham is doing a good job, but grand jury presentments announced Thursday tend to indicate otherwise.
Photo by Laura Moon
slideshow
MARIETTA - Validating complaints from some Cobb school bus drivers and mechanics, the Cobb grand jury believes "there is a serious need for a culture change, starting with the top management of the transportation department at the South Cobb Bus Shop."

In its presentments announced Thursday afternoon, the grand jury itemized 16 "serious issues/bad management practices" including poor record keeping; lack of work instructions for mechanics; lack of a defect analysis being performed, which could help identify preventative maintenance opportunities; unsafe lifts in used in the mechanics shops; and school-bus fire extinguishers that did not have pins or were low on chemicals.

"It must be noted that the drivers and mechanics work in an environment of intimidation and 'virtual fear' of losing their jobs - it is palpable and we heard and saw it time and time again," jurors wrote. "It is high time that the School Board and all levels of management below them hear and understand this. To allow this atmosphere to continue unabated is the grossest form of mismanagement."

The district's transportation director, Rick Grisham, was in Superior Court Judge Robert Flournoy's courtroom for the 4 p.m. presentments, as were two employees of the Brock Clay law firm.

Afterward, Grisham said he needed time to digest the entire report.

"Some things we've already addressed in some form or fashion," he said. "It was very thorough, and I plan to address every area they recommend."

There are about 1,128 buses in the school district's fleet, and 56 mechanics, the jurors noted. Inspections are performed on each bus approximately every 20 days. The state inspects each bus annually, and in May 2009, found Cobb had 115 buses with serious defects, according to the presentments.

Grisham has led the department for about two years. Previously, he was an assistant administrator at Lassiter High School, and before that, taught physical education at Frey Elementary. Grisham said he was "an award-winning transportation director for five years" for the school district in Broken Arrow, Okla.

The grand jurors also noted in the presentments that they requested maintenance records for two specific buses, but had a hard time getting the records.

"It took three requests to get these documents, including one under subpoena. ... When the Grand Jury requests records especially for controversial bus issues, and it takes several attempts to retrieve these records, it only fuels the speculation of possible cover up or at the very least, supports the conclusion of bad management," jurors wrote.

"An allegation we continually heard is the mechanics have been told 'verbally' to decrease the monthly bus inspection time from 30 minutes to 15 minutes," jurors wrote, though they could find no hard evidence of such a mandate being issued by either Warner or Grisham.

"If in fact the 15 minutes time is true, it would definitely explain why there are so many problems called in from buses on the Daily Breakdown Sheets," the jurors wrote.

The complaints of the bus drivers and mechanics were first brought to light by Journal columnist Laura Armstrong, and the jurors were critical of the way Grisham responded to one of her columns that was published in December.

"It appears that Mr. Grisham has a 'hands off' method of management which fuels the unrest among his employees," the jurors wrote. "Mr. Grisham's 'hands off' attitude equates to 'does not take responsibility for.'"

Grand juror Jackie Inclan, a retired auditor who spearheaded the subcommittee's investigation, said later that "the mechanics and drivers have been crying for someone to listen and do something" about the problems in the department, and "somebody needs to listen to it on the school board."

"The way Mr. Warner manages is by intimidation and fear. You ask staff a question and they're looking over their shoulder to see who's there. That is totally unacceptable," she said. "Mr. Warner opened mouth and inserted foot sometimes. I think he's a bad manager. They don't like him. They don't trust him."

Dorothy Bell, another grand juror, said the changes the grand jury recommended should have been implemented "long ago."

"There have been some issues with safety, here and there, that could possibly be attributed to mechanics being rushed through their inspections. However, we don't want parents to be concerned that their children aren't safe on the buses. It is a management problem that stems from lack of management, management by intimidation, and poor direction from upper management. But if something's not done now to stop the process and to let the mechanics do the job they need to do, then potentially there could be some danger to the children," Bell said.

To correct the problems, the grand jurors recommended several actions, including reviews by each subsequent grand jury, to look into:

* Cobb County School Board (CCSB) lack of management intervention efforts and lack of apparent interest into all the well documented controversies concerning the Cobb County Transportation management practice;

* That the CCSB hire an outside source to independently audit/investigate the Cobb County Transportation offices, both Fleet Maintenance and Bus Driver sides of this organization; and

* An audit of Human Resources practice of hiring and firing both Fleet Maintenance Mechanics and Bus Drivers to assure fair and equal treatment.

Jurors also advised that the telephone number and e-mail address of the Georgia Department of Public Safety be conspicuously posted so all mechanics and bus drivers can see and use it if necessary.

On Wednesday morning, Journal staff sat down with school board chairwoman Lynnda Crowder-Eagle to talk about the district, and asked her about the transportation department, among other things.

"I think our transportation department is doing an outstanding job," Crowder-Eagle said. "We've received a lot of safety awards. We are running a lot of buses every day and we get kids to school and back safely."

Asked if there is more discontent in the transportation department than elsewhere in the district, she said, "I don't think so."

"I'm very appreciative to our drivers - they do a big responsibility. I certainly could not drive one of those big buses, no way. I think they do a great job," she said. "I also believe that Mr. Grisham is doing a very good job. I have not found him inaccessible at all."
Comments
(64)
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This is BS
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March 16, 2010
Fire all of them and start over., And start with Cathy Cox and move down from there. And in stall some side walks and we won't need so many buses.
Fed up
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March 16, 2010
Still seems like a lot of bus drivers with an ax to grind.... Grow up and put your big girl/boy panties on. Finger Pointers.....
concerned bus driver
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March 11, 2010
15 minute bus inspection? My January inspection(at the Baker Road shop) lasted 9 minutes.The one in February was only 7 minutes. This was from the time the machanic pulled it into the garage until he pulled it out. I think they are tring to get the inspection under 5 minutes!
KMAL
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March 11, 2010
Hey I just had a thought instead of cutting the fat at the bottom of the totem pole (so to speak) why not start at the top!!!! It just might start a new trend though and then maybe companies (CCSD) wont have such a big budget decision???

Just a thought since there is no more fat at the bottom of the totem pole!!!
good joke!
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March 10, 2010
@Al McLain:

bahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

that was a good joke!
Al McLain
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March 09, 2010
BRIAN POPHAM for School Board or

BRIAN POPHAM for Director of Transportation or

BRIAN POPHAM FOR Director of Fleet Maintenance.

I have spoke with and listened to this man and he is more intellectual, could govern more fairly and has more integrity than any of the above. He tried to speak in behalf of all district employees and was targeted and terminated. Anyone that gets as much attention from the brass as he did has to be stepping on someones toes. It's high time some of you that he fought for get busy. If you truly want change organize and vote this man into a position where he can clean up the cesspool the county BOE has become.
Former CCSD Employee
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March 09, 2010
Lets Talk about Mary! Mary works in HR and if you have to go see her about anything you will ether get time off without pay or you will get fired! Or you RESIGN in order to keep your retirement.Mary is the one that needs to be FIRED!
Former CCSD Employee
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March 09, 2010
I use to work for CCSD. I work there for over 20 years.I worked in the Warehouse.It's very true about the Trucks They are wore out!! The DOT would not stop us because they were told to over look these Trucks!Because they would never pass a DOT inspection.Management would tell you if you didn't drive the Truck, You would be sent down to Human Resources.Management was bad,so bad I hated my Job.Something needs to be done! It needs to be done Now before they Kill someone with these TRUCKS!
Just another driver
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March 09, 2010
@contented...seriously? Do you really think that every single person posting on this blog is lying? Who's office do you work in? The new technology is a great idea! If it were to be put in place AFTER more pressing concerns like new buses, proper repair of buses, cleaning the mold out of the buses, and maybe, just maybe heaters that work as well as A/C for the days the temp inside the bus reaches well over 100 degrees.

If management were concerned about the Drivers and children first, there would definitely be fewer complaints. Instead we are being micro-managed over piddly things making for a stressful work day, when we are responsible for getting these children safely to school. And you are more concerned about completing a time card? How about we start cutting waste at the South Cobb Offices first. All the office assistants and their hours could be trimmed if the supervisors would bother to do their job.

As for feeling spied on, yes at times you do feel spied on. Especially when we are told not to use our cell phones on the bus, but we get text from FC's about where our buses are parked during layover times. Please, what would you call it.
KMAL
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March 08, 2010
Well it seems that the Grand Jury has made some decisions for the (upper) management. But what is going to be interesting is the Board and their decision!!! This will tell us (taxpayers) if they are really trying to clean up their act or if they think they can slide by one more time. Hey Grand Jury PLEASE investigate HR (Mary) investigator and her people and Jim Wagoner then go thru the whole system. Please dont stop here there is plenty more where this has started. Even Grisham said so about the Board making the decisions and HR and he has to follow what they say. So PLEASE PLEASE investigate further until you get the whole bad bunch and not just a few because it will not stop it will just get worse. Oh yeah go ride in the buses when the weather gets better like 70 to 100's and see if the money should be used to keep our children and drivers from having heat strokes or at the very least exhaustion. GRAND JURY WE LOVE YOU AND WE NEED YOU!!!! We just want the truth and fairness. Thank you so much for doing your jobs and I might ad very well. I am grateful for each and everyone of you. Again THANK YOU DEARLY!!!!!
contented
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March 08, 2010
I am absolutely appalled at the unfounded, slanderous, full of yourselves comments and accusations posted on this site. There are so many untruths posted here. If you don't know the reason for some decision made, or you were made to place correct times on your time card because you were "milking" it, or someone "told" you that they were fired unjustly, or whatever the reason you posted what you did, says you are just keeping this madness going.

Don't repeat what others are saying. I'll just bet, most of these comments are just a bunch of hot heads that don't really have a clue. If you are so worried about the telematics or GPS, then that says you may have something to hide. People that do the right thing day after day aren't complaining. They don't feel spyied on. It sounds to me like things are going to be much better. Hand written time cards are a thing of the past. I for one will be glad to not fill out a time card every day. I am sure there are folks out there that probably need to be watched, but for the most part, it is just the new technology. I applaud Mr. G for looking for ways to improve our department. Paulding County drivers like the telematics. They say its great.

Oh and one last thing, if management didn't decide to make critical days before and after a holiday, there are some days so many of you take off to make the holiday longer, that there aren't enough drivers to cover all the absent runs. So don't tell me you are concerned about your students, because absenteeism is at an all time high. When you are out, your students pay the price if there aren't enough standbys to cover it. Don't miss work if you are so all fired concerned about your students.
all CCSD employees
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March 08, 2010
And the employees who were fired, How many of you were told you will lose your retirement if you don,t resign? this is illegal. They cannot refuse to pay your retirement once you are vested. This is aganist the law. However this is a common pratice in management and HR. This should be investigated by the Grand Jury Committee and the District attorney's office. This must stop now.
Warehouse Employees
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March 08, 2010
With the management at the warehouse, nothing is ever good enough. It doesn't matter how hard you work, it is not enough. If you get injured, even if you are on workers comp you are told by management that you are faking and nothing is wrong with you regardless of what the comp doctor says. We are forced to drive trucks every day with faulty brakes, transmissions, lift gates, doors and holes in the floor board you can see the pavement through. If we complain, management says we are trouble makers. It does not matter how many years you have,how many good letters, how many years of perfect attendance, they will not spend any money to repair or replace this equipment which puts our lives in danger every day. By not spending any money, they recieve a very good bonus each year. If the grand jury wants to investigate this is the place.
unfortunate
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March 07, 2010
What does the Grand Jury Findings mean? Does it mean that Mr. Grisham will be fired ? Does it mean that he should resign ? Obviously from the meeting that he had on Friday, he "will not resign". So what's next ?

We, the drivers, monitors, and mechanics, want to be treated with respect.

again and again, May I ask, What positive things ?

I work within the Transportation Department, and the ONLY positive thing that I have seen happen this year, is Mrs. Lanetta Mills. This year, she has shown time and time again, that she cares about her drivers and monitors. I can honestly say that I am proud that she is my Supervisor , but with all this mess going on within the Transportation Department, I can not say I am proud to be apart of that team.

PLEASE Grand Jury, make the right decisions and start with upper management !

I do love my job, but all of this sure makes it harder and harder to say that.
again and again
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March 07, 2010
why do the same negative blogs get posted over and over, but the positive ones get buried further and further down?
anonymous
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March 07, 2010
Again LCE is speaking in circles.vfkxi
Warehouse Employees
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March 07, 2010
We agree with "Payback Time's" comment regarding the treatment of the warehouse employees when he stated that "these employees are threatened and intimidated daily and that all the upper management at Cobb's Warehouse also needs to have the Grand Jury do an investigation". Hey everyone, PLEASE send your emails, letters and phone calls to the MDJ and the District Attorney's Office so a Grand Jury Committee will also conduct an investigation into management and the goings on in this department of the school district!! We need to clean house over this way too!!!

Sad and confused
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March 07, 2010
I am so sadden by all the continued negativity with the cobb school system. What about the KIDS??

The school board is making them walk farther, then putting them on unsafe busses, to be transported to school, where they will be met by teachers that have been forced to take pay cuts, buy their own paper and supplies, and forced to teach so that test scores will be high enough??

Anyone else see a problem with our "fat cat" school board? Testing is not the answer,education is! Start with the school board!!
one employees view
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March 07, 2010
To Crowder/Eagle...HUH????? Try to get one sentence in without interruption then talk to us? Think about it hun...you just threw yourself under the bus.
Step up
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March 07, 2010
Calling all CCSD employees past and present to step up and tell MDJ how your civil rights have been denied. Tell the paper and the Grand Jury

your story. Tell them how you were threatened with

the loss of your job and your retirement if you didn't remain quiet. This is the best chance you will ever have to make things right. This needs to stop now.
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