Letter to the editor: Bus driver speaks out about GPS system

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After the School Board Meeting Thursday, April 6, I was outside talking to Tommy Fitzpatrick and Lynn Sparks.

Tommy was relating the way the GPS system scores drivers. He mentioned that Lynn had the best score of all the drivers, but also remarked that I may well be right up there with her if it wasn’t for the fact that I always speed on one section of road, this being Country Side Drive behind Thunderbolt Elementary.

I stated that I didn’t speed there and he told me that I was consistently going 25 to 30 miles per hour in there and the speed limit is just 15 mph. I corrected him and told him it was 25 and he said “No, here let me prove it to you.” He then went to Google Maps on his smartphone and displayed a picture on Country Side Drive that plainly showed a 15-mph speed limit sign.

I took four snapshots this very afternoon on Country Side Drive of four distinct 25 mph speed signs. I actually could have taken more, but I think these four will get my point across. Incidentally, the Google Maps photo used for the segment he showed was taken in January of 2008.

There are so many lessons to be learned here. The first being that you can’t properly lead an organization from behind a desk. It’s easy to get fascinated with technology, to think it can make your life easier, but you end up putting blind faith in individuals you will never know. That is why I have said previously and will reaffirm my opinion that the Area Manager position should be mobile. They shouldn’t sit in their office waiting for something to transpire. They should be driving their area and proactively managing it.

Second point, it was apparent that my GPS data had been enthusiastically reviewed. The fact that it showed a consistent discrepancy should have been noted and investigated properly before a senior administrator applied egg to his face. Make no mistake, it should have been investigated. Considering that this data was the sole factor used for performance evaluations in lieu of behind the wheel evaluations, it begs the question of fairness to our employees. This is just one example of where leadership failed to exercise due diligence in executing their responsibilities. Trust, but verify or as I like to say dig deeper.

Third, and this follows on with the second point. When you rely so completely on technology, you better make sure the technology is spot on. We addressed this point previously during the presentations before we purchased the GPS.

We asked what guarantee did we have of the accuracy of the system? Consider this, just today my GPS system decided somewhere in the middle of my afternoon runs that it was going to just randomly kick my monitor and myself out of the system. Got back in to the compound and went to do my post trip inspection and I was logged out. So, if it was the sole input for our payroll and I hadn’t noticed, I would have lost who knows how many hours. I guess if you want to trim your payroll, this is one way to do it.

Fourth, another affect this could have on fair evaluations. This had been noted and could have been a factor in my evaluations. So, why was Thursday night the first time I heard of it. The idea that it wasn’t considered a problem and didn’t reflect negatively on my overall evaluation is a moot point. It had to have been reviewed and, regardless of whether it was determined to rise to a level requiring a poor performance review, it should have been discussed with me. I should have been given the information and had a chance to correct my actions if this had been a valid observation. The fact that it was never discussed with me is disturbing. If we are going to effectively utilize the GPS we have to be transparent with the data. As Dr. Kemp says, it shouldn’t be a gotcha.

Right now, my view of the GPS is that it is like being handcuffed to a pig. No matter how much you try your going to get dirty, but the cleaner you can keep the pig the less you’re going to smell. Honestly, if I had a bachelor’s degree, I’d be applying for the directors’ position and saving you about $31,500 in the process. I’m so scared that the district will once again overpay for mediocrity.

Keith Nichols

Lake Asbury

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