“If you have a problem employee, it’s just going to be a matter of time before they show themselves out the door, either voluntarily or not.”
However, Ellison adds that when a discipline issue persists, the challenge is finding out the employee’s history if information wasn’t properly documented. Often, there is only a written record, and in some cases, not even that. Some of the history may be lost with the previous manager.
“Getting back to square one with the potential problem employee can be frustrating,” Ellison says. To solve the problem, he advises “talking to anybody in the know,” such as assistants or human resources staff. If at that point no documentation exists, do your due diligence to document accordingly.
3. Communicate clearly on financial hurdles
Any director taking on a new position at a district with budget challenges needs to know up front the level of commitment they have from their supervisors to address the issue, Dallessandro says.
“They need to be able to make hard decisions for cuts,” he adds. “If not, the relationship between the director and administration or central office will not be smooth. If they want the same level of service but don’t have the funding stream [for it], nobody’s going to be able to achieve any goals.”
Sometimes an incoming director will find support from the principal and district, but longtime or union employees may stand in the way of budgetary changes and complain about them in the district office, community and drivers’ room. Overcoming such a challenge takes a superintendent, district office and board of education that want change in their operation and strongly back the transportation director, Dallessandro says.
Conversely, without support from the powers-that-be, the drivers and other employees will learn that they have a direct link to the central office or board of education, and the transportation director will have trouble making progress. If the complaints are referred back to the transportation director, eventually employees learn that they have to follow the director’s goals and objectives, he adds.
4. Seek out experienced staff for guidance
New directors can benefit from the experience of longtime employees. When Kevin Neafie, director of transportation at Lafayette, Ind.’s Tippecanoe School Corp., came on board three years ago, the operations director at the time was very helpful. He had been with the district about 16 years and had previously worked at the sheriff’s department, so he knew the geographically diverse county very well.
“He was a great help for me as a newbie,” Neafie says. “His background and knowledge of [the area] helped.”