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Manatee school drivers face termination in separate incidents

MANATEE — Earlier this year it was school bus boss Stephanie Waiters in the hot seat. The Manatee County School District employee got in trouble for reportedly kicking students off a bus during a Feb. 11 morning bus ride to Palmetto High School.

Now two more district drivers face discipline for alleged misconduct and schools Superintendent Tim McGonegal wants them fired.

According to an administrative complaint, Christopher L. Winans reportedly made unauthorized stops, intentionally drove slow during routes and falsified his time sheet Sept. 4.

During the morning of Sept. 3, Winans was overheard by a superior saying, “I don’t give them a minute of my time,” according to the complaint. “I milk my routes by slowing down to get the most out of them I can.”

A district GPS unit also showed he parked in a shopping center complex off U.S 301 Boulevard for about 10 minutes, the complaint states.

Bernard J. Bourdon on at least two occasions reportedly sent children to be disciplined without a referral slip and left them at school. On Oct. 21, he kicked a Buffalo Creek Middle School student off the bus for acting up, according to his administrative complaint.

When an assistant principal told the boy to get back on the bus, Bourdon allegedly shut the bus door and drove off. The student ran after the bus, and fell, according to the complaint.

Both employeEs are on administrative leave with pay, according to the district.

The school board Monday will determine whether to fire both employees or suspend them without pay if they request an administrative hearing.

School officials say Waiters violated school transportation operating procedures during a Feb. 11 morning ride to Palmetto High.

The incident began after a substitute bus driver told Waiters that students misbehaved, yelled and made racial slurs at him during Feb. 9 and 10 trips to the school, according to a complaint. So on Feb. 11, Waiters boarded bus No. 537 with the driver for the trip to the school.

During the ride she reportedly read aloud a list of students’ names and allegedly told them they should “enjoy the ride because it would be their last day riding the bus.”

After that, Waiters, a 13-year employee with the district, reportedly told the students they would be released to either deputies or their parents. She told some students to call their parents to pick them up. A Palmetto High resource officer and the school’s assistant principal arrived at the stop and took the students, who could not reach their parents, to school.

Only the school’s principal or a principal designee can suspend students from a bus, according to school policies. District operating procedures and the Code of Student Conduct require students to have cell phones turned off while on buses.

She was reassigned to another position in the district. Paperwork does not detail what that position is.

McGonegal has also requested the board fire her.

An administration judge heard the case a few months ago and the district is awaiting a ruling from the judge, School Board Attorney John Bowen said Tuesday.