Ava R-1 School Board and School Bus Drivers at Odds Over Bus Cameras

by Michael Boyink / mike@douglascountyherald.com

The Ava R-1 School Board and local contracted bus drivers are once again at odds. 

The latest issue in the five-year-tension between the two groups is cameras that the school wants to install on the buses.

On August 22nd, 2019 the Ava R-1 School Board approved $55,000 for the purchase of cameras to be installed on both school-owned and contractor-owned buses.

On November 21st, 2019 (a Thursday), Dr. Jason Dial sent a letter to all of the school bus contractors containing a Equipment Usage Agreement that the Board of Education wanted the bus drivers to sign. The drivers were given until November 25th (the following Monday) to return the signed document.

Citing concerns with privacy and the inability to turn off the cameras during non-school miles, the bus drivers refused to sign the document.

On December 3rd, the Ava Board of Education held a special meeting at 7:30 a.m. Later that day, Dr. Jason Dial reported to the Herald that “The discussion this morning centered around the ongoing discussion with the contractors and communication with them from the BOE,” and upon being asked if there were any new developments, replied “Not at this point.”

On December 6th, the Herald started getting reports of registered letters from the Ava Board of Education, sent to all of the contracted bus drivers. The Herald contacted the School Board that day, asking for the recorded minutes from the December 3rd Board of Education Meeting.

Ava Schools were canceled that day, due to the football team playing in the state finals. 

On Tuesday, December 10th, Ava Schools provided the minutes from the December 3rd meeting to the Herald.

In spite of Dr. Dial’s earlier assurances that there were no new developments during the meeting, according to the minutes the Ava R-1 School Board did take action during their meeting. 

Deana Parsick moved to send the bus drivers letters as presented. The motion was seconded by Michael Stewart and carried 7-0.

In the letter, the board:

Informs the bus drivers of their failure to sign the Equipment Usage Agreement.

States their opinion, backed by their legal counsel, that by doing so the bus drivers are in breach of their contract with the school.

States the board’s opinion that “transporting a large number of students on a school bus with one adult to monitor safety is inherently an unsafe condition.”

States that the board expects the drivers to comply. If not, the drivers “leave the Board of Education no other option than to consider rescinding your right to operate a bus route for the district.”

Gives the bus drivers until 4:30 p.m. on December 16th, 2019 to return a signed copy of the Equipment Use Agreement. 

The letter also included relevant sections of the School’s Policy GBCB: Staff Conduct.

Representatives from the Ava Bus Drivers Association were not yet prepared to comment on the issue.