I am currently an Interim Transportation Director for the Morgan Hill Unified School District. I understand that there have been recent inquiries to the district regarding staff turnover and Superintendent Dr. Carmen Garcia’s management style having an impact on staff departures.
I have only been in this role for a short time and cannot speak for the entire district. However, I have been in transportation for over 30 years and quickly identified urgent needs within the Transportation Department at MHUSD when I became Interim Director in April 2023.
Based on my observations, it appeared that financial records were mismanaged and generally disorganized when I stepped into the role. In reviewing the department budget,
previous management appears to not have a strategic plan within the budget for the replacement of major equipment, including the replacement of school buses.
The overall condition of the department was in despair. Driver morale was extremely low, and the staff easily shared their disappointment with their previous management’s willingness to listen to their concerns and needs at a basic level.
The efficiency of departmental processes and effectiveness of the department as a whole required an overhaul. The bus drivers didn’t feel appreciated or listened to and did not feel as though their thoughts or needs were valued. They are a great group of people with so much experience; going to them as “the source,” the people who do the job day in and day out, was the natural place to start when breaking down where to begin the repairs. I considered the employees’ viewpoint and came in with a coaching perspective to manage by example. We needed to give this group our best in order to expect their best.
These drivers have an extremely important role in our students’ education, which is to transport them safely to and from school every day. For most of these students, our drivers are the first adult they come into contact with each day.
The role of bus driver is so much more than just driving a bus. It can be demanding, and vacancies are hard to fill. It certainly makes sense to put forth effort to retain the good employees we have.
By providing them with basic items such as replacing non-functioning computers they used for their route planning, providing them with the first water cooler they have ever had, new signage and lighting outside the building for safety and ease of identification, the drivers started to feel appreciated.
I once started a small painting project in the office, and was quickly relieved of my duties when the department employees insisted on pitching in and taking over. Today, I can say this department feels like a team.
We have recently reconfigured our bus routes to make them safer for our drivers. Absenteeism has dropped drastically and the environment is positive. We have replaced the parking spot for the previous director with a sign that says “Employee of the Month.”