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Partlow hired as transportation director

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Jerry Partlow

Wilson County Director of Schools Dr. Donna Wright announced in a release Thursday that Jerry Partlow had been named the new Director of Transportation for the school system.

According to the release Partlow, a lifelong resident of Wilson County, previously served as Transportation Supervisor for Robertson County Schools, and also as Transportation Director for Wilson County Schools from 1994 to 2000 - at which time the school system contracted with First Student Inc. to manage the transportation department.

"Jerry has over 20 years' experience in school bus transportation, and 10 of those were spent as the head of transportation for Wilson County Schools," Wright said. "In talking with many of the long-term drivers about when they felt the transportation department operated at its best, Jerry's name was mentioned time and again."

The news came just one day after a press conference was held at the Central Office regarding the termination of Transportation Director Tiffany Lowery.

Lowery was hired to the Wilson County position in November 2014 and formerly served as the safety and training supervisor for pupil transportation in the Fayette County Public School System in Lexington, Kentucky.

Wilson County Schools Communications Director Amelia Hipps conducted the press conference and explained the "multiple reasons" factored into the decision to terminate Lowery.

"In a nutshell it seemed Ms. Lowery was in over her head. This was her first director position... She had not had the entire level of responsibility (in her former position in Lexington) that she did here," Hipps said.

Reasons for Lowery's termination included:

  1. Incompetence in completing essential functions of the job (lacking ability to carry out duties and responsibilities of the position; inability to command respect and cooperation from subordinates)

  2. Creating and unsafe environment for students whose bus routes changed daily without notification to students or parents (which was an ongoing issue that they consistently failed to use the messenger system when buses were running extremely late)

  3. Creating a hostile work environment including retaliation to employees, no respect for drivers, talking about drivers to other drivers, drivers do not trust you, saying one thing to the drivers and doing something else

  4. Blaming other staff member for problems due to your procrastination in completing tasks and reports

  5. Insubordination including removal of shuttle to Tuckers Crossroads and Carroll Oakland Elementary Schools when told that additional personnel had been secured to keep the shuttle in place and discouraging transportation employees from talking to upper administration even though they had been encouraged to do so

  6. Failure to engage in the hiring process in a timely manner, resulting in a lack of drivers

  7. Failure to drug screen employees involved in accidents

  8. Calling for schools to add additional hours to Educational Assistants without HR approval

  9. Failure to tell the truth to supervisors

  10. Loss of confidence of the school district leadership team, board, drivers and public

  11. Policy violated: 5.600, 5.500 How incident/issue interferes with work, employee performance, or safety and well-being: Volume and frequency of complaints are creating a disruption in the school system; student safety is jeopardized due to random bus times and lack of communication to parents; employees feeling bullied, loss of confidence in the transportation of students.

Hipps reiterated that the school system's number one priority is the safety of students. "We have to make sure they are safe so they can learn," she said, before adding that one of the biggest complaints they received regarding Lowery was her choice to remove shuttles to Tuckers Crossroads and Carroll Oakland schools, as outlined above.

"That created longer than what should have been allowed times on buses for certain students," Hipps said. "It created a nightmare."

Another concern addressed was that Lowery failed to effectively communicate with parents using school messenger.

According to Hipps the breaking point came when several 25-year veteran bus drivers submitted resignation letters stating they could no longer work with Lowery.

New Director Partlow's first day on the job will be Thursday, Sept. 24. Partlow said he is excited to return to his home county and to work with drivers he knew from his time in the system before, as well as new employees in the department.

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at sgarrett@mainstreetmediatn.com.

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