GREEN RIVER– Just eight days before Sweetwater County School District #2 started the 2019-2020 school year, the district’s Transportation Department received shocking news that their boss and mechanic had been terminated.
Now, the department says they are broken and simply wants two things: a conversation with the district, and for their supervisor, Oscar Barton, and mechanic, Brian Beckermann, to be back.
Several transportation employees were in attendance at Tuesday night’s SWCSD #2 school board meeting, wearing shirts in support of Oscar and Brian.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, Laura Pearson, SWCSD #2 bus and activities driver, addressed the Board of Trustees. Before she began speaking, Brenda Roosa, school board Chairperson, warned Pearson about discussing personnel matters, which Pearson assured she was not going to.
Pearson began with saying she believes the transportation department has always been full of employees who strive to be the best they can be, and who prioritize the kids and their safety and well-being. She then went into how the department has been broken since August.
“Before August, I believed in this community and this district,” Pearson said. “We just want you to know that our department is broken. I don’t even recognize it. No one knows who they can trust anymore, in our department or our district.”
At that point, Roosa told Pearson she would have to stop speaking, as it is a personnel and legal matter.
“This is a personnel matter and we understand and we appreciate you being here. We support our district as a whole,” Roosa said.
Pearson asked if they could be invited into executive session, and Roosa told her they cannot, as they must submit a written complaint prior to the meeting. Pearson clarified that she was not making a complaint but rather a statement about the state of the department.
Roosa again said the board supports the district staff and appreciates the transportation department for being at the meeting.
“There are legal requirements that we do have to follow,” Roosa said.
Roosa later explained that she cut Pearson’s time short because she wanted to ensure the matter remained confidential.
“It’s a confidential personnel matter and to protect both the employees and the board, we have to make sure we maintain those confidences. We can’t discuss or have anything elude to any employee and that’s important that people are protected,” Roosa said.
The Department Wants a Conversation
Transportation employees have been looking to have a discussion with the district since the terminations happened, and they said they intend on coming to each monthly meeting until they get a conversation.
“We’ll come back every month until we get answers,” Krista Taylor, SWCSD #2 bus driver said. “We want fairness and we want for our boss to be back.”
With the terminations happening just eight days before the school year started, the transportation employees said it left a lot of stress on the drivers and tension within the department.
“Our department is shattered, the morale from this is just horrible. It’s torn a family apart,” Kellie Harmon, bus and activity driver said.
“It has,” Leanna Eaton, district bus driver added. “It’s torn our bus family apart.”
Taylor said the department wants to be heard but believes the district isn’t listening to them. Ultimately, they want Barton and Beckermann back.
“[Barton] was more than a boss, he was our support. He was a pillar in this department,” Eaton said.
“Neither man can be replaced for what they did. They went above and beyond their job descriptions all the time. That’s priceless and it can’t be replaced,” Eaton added.
Rachel Todd, transportation administrative assistant, took over as interim transportation supervisor, but according to Taylor, no one from Central Office came down to the transportation department to tell them who would be filling in.
Pearson and the department said they appreciate Rachel for stepping in as supervisor, as it was not an easy position to step into.
“Rachel, in my opinion, is doing a great job trying to hold everything together,” Pearson said.
In lieu of what took place in August, eight days before school started, the department is hoping for a conversation and explanation at some point in time, Pearson said.
“What we’re trying to do is be here and represent our department. We’re trying to bring everyone together for a positive outcome,” Pearson said.
A Camera in the Break Room
According to the Transportation Department, the school district placed cameras inside the bus barn after the terminations of Barton and Beckermann. The department has an issue with one camera in particular, and that is the camera in the break room.
When Pearson addressed the board at Tuesday night’s meeting, she said the department would like the break room camera taken down.
Roosa later explained that the cameras were installed for the protection of the district’s facilities, however she said they would look into the break room camera.
“The protection of the district properties and facilities is always our foremost concern,” Roosa said. “If it’s in the break room, we’ll definitely look at that. These facilities are the community’s facilities, we want to make sure they’re safe and used for what they’re supposed to be used for.”
As of Wednesday morning, Pearson told SweetwaterNOW that the district will be taking the break room camera down.