As the 2017-2018 academic school year nears, the Robertson County Board of Education is implementing several safety factors in the wake of last year's Chattanooga bus crash that killed six small children.
The retirement of longtime Assistant Dept. of Transportation Raymond Woodard has also prompted some reorganization within the transportation department, according to Director of Schools Chris Causey.
On Monday, July 10, the Board of Education approved Causey's request to reorganize some of the administrative duties within the transportation department.
Causey first took time to recognize Woodard's many years of service to the Robertson County school district.
"We were excited on (Mr. Woodard's) last day," Causey said. "He was actually painting on his last day. He worked up to the very, very end. We are going to miss him greatly."
Causey requested Woodard's position be dissolved and replaced with two transportation coordinators.
"They will be assigned regions in school clusters so they can cover the district more effectively," Causey said. "(The coordinators) will receive additional tasks into two categories - operations and safety."
Board member Allan Heard wanted to know who would be second-in-command in the absence of Supervisor of Transportation Joshua Hinerman.
Hinerman said at this point, it would be the transportation coordinator for human resources.
When the reorganization takes place, Hinerman said the operations and safety coordinators would step in with his absence.
All field trips will be organized by the operations coordinator, he said.
Hinerman said the reorganization plan would be covered in the budget already approved.
"We're not asking for any new money," he said.
Fatalities in Chattanooga school bus crash prompts changes
Hinerman told board members that following last November's tragic school bus crash that killed six children, the state has put all public school transportation departments on notice to new rules in place to ensure safety concerns.
The Tennessee Department of Education now requires that all school buses have bumper stickers that provide complaint phone numbers for drivers.
All serious complaints will be sent to the transportation director, who will in turn forward them to the district's superintendent.
Beginning in August, Hinerman told the board that when a call is received, he has 24 hours to notify the director of schools about the complaint.
"I have 48 hours to begin an investigation, which would require me to look at the driver's history, any other complaints we may have had about the driver and then submit a final report," Hinerman said. "I have to include what kind of action was taken, if any."
Hinerman said the state will begin auditing school transportation departments annually to make sure all complaints are indeed tracked.
Safety concerns are the only type of complaints that will be tracked, according to Hinerman.
"If it's not deemed as an unsafe operation of the driver, we will not need to track that particular incident," Hinerman said. "The law also changes minimum age of drivers from 21 to 25."
Seat belts are still not required for school buses, but Hinerman said he believes in the not too distant future, the state will begin requiring them to be placed on all new school buses.
The new law begins in January, but the Robertson County Transportation Department will begin the process in August 2017 when school begins, according to Hinerman.