GREEN RIVER– Since the start of the 2019-2020 school year, the Sweetwater County School District #2 Transportation Department has been trying to have a discussion with the District leaders and Board of Trustees about the termination of their director and mechanic.
Due to legal personnel issues, the reasons behind the terminations of Oscar Barton, director, and Brian Beckermann, mechanic, remains confidential.
The transportation department has been sitting in on the school board’s monthly meetings, in hopes of a discussion. In October, Board of Trustees Chairperson Brenda Roosa told the department they could submit a written complaint prior to the next meeting, and if accepted, they could then have a discussion in executive session.
During the public comment section of the school board meeting, Laura Pearson, SWCSD #2 bus and activities driver and trainer, said the department did file a written complaint, but were denied an opportunity to sit in during executive session.
“I just wanted that on the record,” Pearson told the board.
Pearson added that the department sent the board and interim Superintendent Jamie Christensen a letter, along with a petition with community members’ signatures to reinstate Barton and Beckermann. Over 400 signatures were collected for the reinstatement of Barton, and just under 400 were collected for the reinstatement of Beckermann.
District Full of Mistrust
The letter Pearson and the department sent to the board opens with describing to the board and District leaders how the transportation department has been affected through these terminations.
“We realize that the past few months have been as stressful and eye opening for you as for us. Losing such an integral part of our team, in the manner in which they were dismissed, was a shocking reality that has occurred far too many times across our district. I realize we are an at-will state, but I never really understood what that meant or the magnitude of these incidences until our transportation department was affected,” the letter reads.
“It saddens me to see our district so full of mistrust, and lack of respect. Our employees are being held hostage. They are unable to speak their minds, teach our children the way that they are no doubt capable of teaching them, or protect themselves without the FEAR of saying or doing something that might result in termination. This is now way to live one’s life, is it?” the letter continues.
Allowing for Corrections
The letter goes on to say that instead of immediate termination, the district should allow for mistakes with correction. If the mistakes are not corrected and keep happening, termination can then be the solution. The letter made this example in terms of dog trainers and the dog.
“Freedom behind a correction is what builds a mutual respect/trust between the trainer and the trainee, or in your case the administration and its employees. Now, if correction after correction is made, with no change when given the freedom, you must pursue another path (termination),” the letter reads.
Transportation Department Asks District to Make Some Considerations
The letter goes on to layout a few things the transportation department would like the District leaders and board to consider. The first consideration is for a new legal team for the school district.
“The investigation that was conducted pertaining to our department was completely biased, with absolutely no interest in investigating all of the departments across our district that are doing the same thing,” the letter states.
The next consideration is for the District to uphold its own anti-bullying and harassment policy, as the transportation department says there are district employees in other departments who are “being forced to work in a hostile environment.”
The last consideration is the reinstatement of Barton and Beckermann.
“These men existed to help anyone who needed it, and this is how they are treated? No ability to make a change, if needed, why?” The letter reads.
The letter goes on to say the transportation department has been “forced to wait for a totally biased investigation to conclude, and have been forced to deal with the anxiety of the possibility of a new Transportation Director when Oscar’s job was expeditiously posted.”
Growing Frustration Throughout the District
The transportation department claims in their letter that it is a district-wide issue that employees feel replaceable and not valued.
“There is a growing frustration throughout our district with employees feeling that they are always replaceable, not valued, and not heard. Would working in an environment like this make you want to be the best that you can be, knowing at any time, and for any reason, you could be gone?” The letter reads.
“This administration is so deep into covering up injustices, and sweeping things under the rug, it’s hard to say what the truth is anymore. Our constituents deserve to know the truth. There has been no transparency, only ‘powerful people protecting powerful people’,” the letter continues.
The transportation department then asks the school board to listen to their concerns.
“Our Board of Directors are elected officials, and although we understand the need not to discuss personnel issues, you are still elected to listen to our concerns. We think that is a fair request,” the letter states. “You have the ability to correct some of these wrongs and begin to rebuild the respect and trust not only in this district, but in this community. Our employees and our students deserve to feel supported,” the letter concludes.
Chairwoman Roosa assured the transportation department that the board are working with the district’s legal counsel for review and will follow their recommendation.