Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

School bus driver's bathroom complaint brings apology from new superintendent

LARGO — Joe Morgan was tired of talking about it.

The 49-year-old Pinellas County school bus driver had come to the School Board meeting multiple times in a year to ask for something simple: bathroom privileges.

On Tuesday, he was back, and this time he wanted an apology.

"When I lived in the country," he said, "I built a lean-to for my German shepherds so that when it rained and it got cold, . . . I could walk them outside so they wouldn't get wet. This school district won't give my school bus drivers, brothers and sisters, the same decency."

Bus drivers at some schools, he said, have been turned away from using bathrooms nearest to school entrances.

Board members listened. Staff listened. Deputy Superintendent Jim Madden listened.

"I've been trying to get my secretary to get in touch with you for a week," Madden said. So far, no luck.

Morgan said he'd given his number to Madden's secretary. He said he'd written e-mails to each board member. Everyone already knew his complaint.

Or, almost everyone.

Morgan turned his attention to the white-haired newcomer in the superintendent's chair.

"I know you get it perfectly, Dr. Stewart," he said.

John A. Stewart, the 67-year-old man board members picked as an interim superintendent help stabilize a school district fraught with controversy, acknowledged his concern.

"I'm not familiar with what you're talking about," he began.

Morgan braced himself, then he interrupted. "This isn't my first rodeo. I've been here before," he said. "All I'm asking, begging for, is decency. Human decency."

Stewart leaned into the microphone again. A former superintendent with 13 years leading Polk County schools, this surely wasn't the first or last disgruntled employee he would deal with.

Since he started his temporary job replacing the fired Julie Janssen on Sept. 3, Stewart has taken appointments with thorns-in-the-side of past administrators. He set aside an hour last week to speak with a former employee who feels he was inappropriately fired. He personally walked a loud district critic to his secretary to schedule a meeting.

"Don't think I can fix anything that comes up," Stewart says to explain. "I can't. But I'm willing to listen to anyone."

So, on Tuesday, Stewart told Morgan he wanted to meet with him during a meeting break.

"I'd like to hear what you have to say," he said. "We'll listen to what you have to say, and we'll find out if we can find an answer for it."

During the break, Stewart and the bus driver stepped into a private room along with Madden and one other person. Stewart apologized on behalf of the school district. He told him he would speak to principals.

"If it happened once," he said he told the driver, "it happened once too many."

Leaving the meeting, Morgan said he's ready for the issue to disappear. He hopes that it does. He wants to never speak about bathrooms again. On Tuesday night, he felt heard and he said he left with at least one thing he'd come seeking.

"He apologized," Morgan said.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at or (727) 893-8707.

School bus driver's bathroom complaint brings apology from new superintendent 09/28/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 11:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Editorial: Trump's vague, shifting strategy for Afghanistan


    President Donald Trump's strategy on Afghanistan makes two things abundantly clear: He has no better idea than Barack Obama how to break a political stalemate between the Afghan government and the insurgents, and he intends to turn over the losing military campaign to the ex-generals who have chewed on this for years …

    President Trump failed to make a convincing case for deepening America’s involvement in Afghanistan.
  2. Three students arrested over BB gun at Brandon middle school


    BRANDON — McClane Middle School was put on lockdown Tuesday after the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office received social media reports of a gun on campus, the agency said.

    McLane Middle School in Brandon. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  3. Bill Nelson: Confederate statues belong in museum


    A day after saying decisions on Confederate monuments should be left to "communities," Sen. Bill Nelson changed his stance:

  4. Missouri governor halts man's execution after DNA questions


    ST. LOUIS — Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens halted Tuesday's scheduled execution of condemned killer Marcellus Williams after DNA raised questions about his guilt.

    This February 2014 photo provided by the Missouri Department of Corrections shows death row inmate Marcellus Williams. [Missouri Department of Corrections via AP]
  5. Suspect in robbery of Brandon woman, 86, has been arrested more than 40 times


    BRANDON — One spring day in 2012, Marcus Wayne Hunt walked out the of Orient Road jail a free man after posting bail on a charge of fleeing from police and driving without a license

    This surveillance photo shows Marcus Hunt, 28, pointing a gun at an 86-year-old woman as she unloaded groceries from her car parked at her Brandon home on Monday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Hunt fled in the Toyota Corolla and was arrested shortly after midnight Tuesday. 
[Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]