A month after the Liberty County Board of Education voted not to renew the contract for its transportation director, 30 bus drivers within the system have presented a petition asking the board to reconsider its decision.
As the Courier previously reported, the board on Feb. 12 voted against Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer’s recommendation to renew the contract for Transportation Director Tony Norce.
According to minutes from that meeting, a motion to renew Norce’s contract received a 3-4 vote. Board members Carol Guyett, Marcia Anderson and Becky Carter voted in favor; Verdell Jones, Carolyn Smith Carter, Lily Baker and Harold Woods were opposed.
The Courier attempted to contact Baker for comment but was not successful by press time. Scherer said Wednesday the board voted after Tuesday night’s executive session to extend to Norce a contract of equal pay and stature but with a position to be determined.
Bus driver Donna Parker addressed the board Tuesday and spoke about transportation advancements within the past three years. Norce has been the director for that time.
“Our state report just came out listing only three at-fault accidents in 2013, compared to nine in 2011 and 16 in 2010 …,” Parker said. “Bus routes have been leveled out, making time equal for each driver. Double-dipping no longer exists, which has resulted in huge budget relief for the transportation department — the money saved on this alone can now be used to renovate buses and even help to purchase new buses.”
Parker said she submitted the petition last week to Scherer. On Wednesday, Scherer said she received the petition and several letters from bus drivers and passed them on to the board.
Because the board is not supposed to publicly discuss personnel matters, Parker did not name Norce specifically in her presentation.
In an interview after the meeting, however, Parker spoke more candidly. In her 18 years as a bus driver, she said she has worked under six transportation directors.
“He’s the one that’s changed it,” Parker said. “People are so used to going with the flow and doing whatever they want, they don’t realize we need rules and regulations in order to succeed.”
Bus driver Robert Cahill also spoke with the Courier. Both alluded to a department wracked with problems prior to Norce’s leadership.
The petition said Norce “put a stop to the theft of gasoline and other diverse items” and nixed extra routes. He also has pushed for accountability through the installation of radio and camera monitors that can track a bus’ whereabouts and speed.
“Because he’s made all these changes, it’s caused a lot of controversy. These changes are for the good of the team and for the good of our county and everybody,” Parker said.
“He wants people to be held accountable, is what it is,” Cahill said. “His big thing is, if you wreck a bus, tell him, it’s fine. If you don’t tell him, you’re fired. … We’ve got people that will sit there and not tell him, and it’s on the camera.”
Parker added that the bus drivers do not have any indication why Norce’s contract was let go, but they don’t feel the situation was handled properly.
“If we had complaints about Mr. Norce, were they ever addressed? If the complaints were from drivers, did they go through proper protocol?” she said. “If it wasn’t addressed at the first meeting, they could have gone up the chain of command and had more meetings. We don’t know why we’re losing another transportation director. No one will tell us.”
“I think they’re calling the board up directly because they’ve known the board since childhood,” Cahill said, adding that he feels Norce is being treated unfairly. “We can’t find anything he’s done wrong; we can only find things he’s done right.”
Norce declined to comment on his termination or on the petition, but he offered a brief reaction.
“I’m going to continue to do my job in the most professional manner I can, as I have done the last three years,” Norce said.
If Norce does not return in the fall, Parker said the department and board will feel his absence.
“We lose him, I’m telling you, it’s going to be pure chaos in the fall,” she said. “And a huge liability issue for the school system.”