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Bus drivers want rules spelled out

Troutman terminated under non-existent policy

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013 8:10 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 9:25 a.m. CDT

MINOOKA, Ill. — Two bus drivers spoke to the Minooka Community High School board of education Thursday night about issues with the transportation department, neither aware the other would be in attendance.

Driver Larry Troutman, who is also the Channahon Township supervisor, asked that he not to be terminated from his job, saying his firing was based on a policy the district doesn’t have.

Troutman explained the circumstances of four incidents that happened while he was driving a bus during the last several months, three of which, he said, were not entirely his fault and for which he, therefore, should not be penalized.

Troutman grazed a guardrail to avoid being hit by a large truck; he struck the overhead garage door at the bus barn while backing out because it had not been properly opened all the way; and he was accused by former Transportation Director Dave Miller of glazing the parking brake pads on his bus even though he had previously filed a report that the parking brake was not working correctly and believed the bus to have been serviced.

“For the last seven years that I was driving a school bus, the safety of my students has been paramount,” Troutman said. “No student was ever harmed in any of my so called incidents.”

In January, Troutman backed into a car after returning to pick up a student at GAVC who had missed the bus earlier.

“I take full responsibility for this incident,” he said.

The following day, Troutman was advised by Interim Transportation Director Al Price that he was being terminated because of the district’s “three strike” policy.

After requesting a copy, Troutman learned the district has no such policy, he said.

“My termination was based upon this phantom policy,” said Troutman.

In a phone conversation with board President Chris Kobe the following day, Kobe confirmed the district does not have a “three-strike” policy.

“We do have a support staff handbook and all our policies are online,” Kobe said.

Following the board meeting, Troutman said the issues began when former director Miller was hired in July of 2012.

Miller was terminated in December of 2012, and Price was hired as interim director, according to school records.

Driver Cheryl Cottle, addressed the board on a similar subject, saying issues within the transportation department had not been handled fairly or properly when Miller was in charge. The former supervisor favored some of the employees while targeting others, including Cottle, she said.

“Everything is not exactly as it seems,” Cottle said. “Anything that happened then needs to be looked at.”

Although Cottle’s intent was to speak to the board about the need for clear-cut policies within the transportation department, she supported many of the things Troutman spoke about, she said following the meeting.

“I just want (the board) to consider that things are not all black and white,” Cottle said.

“Without a handbook, how do you know what the rules are?”

The policy on support staff termination does not include specific disciplinary actions for accidents or incidents, according to the district’s policy 5:290.

“The administration has been doing a lot to improve our transportation department. We are very appreciative of our bus drivers,” Kobe said. “(As far as) some of the concerns, this will be something the administration will work with the transportation director on.”

In other business, the board had the first reading of the intergovernmental agreement with Minooka Grade School District 201 for construction of the new transportation facility.

If there are no objections, the second reading and vote will take place at the next board meeting on Feb. 21.

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