Pubdate: Tue, 04 Jul 2006
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2006 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Author: Ericka Mellon


County School System Wants Random Drug Testing, List of Drivers Each

Prompted by a critical federal audit, the Knox County  school system's
transportation department has proposed  a stricter agreement with
school bus owners that would  hold them more accountable.

The proposal, which the school board plans to vote on  Wednesday,
would mean several changes for the 115 or so  independent bus owners,
who contract with the district  to transport students to and from school.

"I think this agreement more clearly defines  expectations and is much
more organized," Rick Grubb,  the district's supervisor of
transportation and zoning,  said before the school board's nonvoting
meeting  Monday. "Is it stricter? Yes."

For one, the new agreement for the 2006-07 school year  would make all
bus owners subject to random drug and  alcohol testing even if they
don't drive a bus. All  drivers currently are subject to random
testing, Grubb  said, but owners have been exempt if they simply own
their bus and have someone else drive it.

Peggy Claiborne, a representative on the Knox County  bus contractors
association, said she had no gripes  with the random testing rule.

"We're in 100 percent agreement," said Claiborne, who  owns and drives
a bus.

The proposed agreement also would require bus owners to  tell the
district's central office the name of the  person driving their bus
each day. The school system  does have an approved list of drivers,
but in the past,  district officials had no idea who was driving each
bus  on a given day unless they called the bus owner.

"I've never understood why we didn't know that"  previously, Grubb
said, explaining that he strongly  supports the proposed requirement.
"I think it is a  layer of safety, and in the event we have an
accident,  an allegation, we should know who's driving the  vehicle.
It also allows us to know if there's a pattern  of what occurs on the
bus based on who's driving."

Another change in the agreement would force bus owners  to eliminate
any reference to "Knox County Schools"  inside and outside their buses
when they are driving  for private or commercial purposes, such as on
the  weekend. Grubb said owners would have to permanently  remove any
reference to Knox County, not simply cover  it up.

"We can't have a bus hauling a UT frat to a football  game having
'Knox County Schools' on it," Grubb said.

Steve Bean, a bus owner and driver and the chairman of  the
contractors association, said he had no problem  with that rule.

"We agree with that, too," he said. "We don't need any  more bad

Bean said he and other association members spent days  negotiating the
proposed agreement with school  officials, and most contractors he
knows feel  comfortable with the rules.

"We've got six or eight or 10 contractors out there  that Jesus Christ
couldn't please, so, yeah, there are  some (provisions) that are going
to be controversial,"  he said.

The bus owners also could see more money under the new  agreement - if
the school system receives more funding  from the county as expected.
The agreement slates  $217,000 to be shared among the owners.

The school board also plans to vote Wednesday to divide  $65,000 among
the contractors to compensate them for  high gas prices last school
year. According to Grubb, a  contractor on average would receive about
$160 per bus. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake