The family of longtime Killeen ISD bus driver William “Bill” Jones spoke to the Herald about their concerns with the district’s transportation department, Jones’ speedy firing, and the lack of communication they’ve had with the district since Jones’ death.

Jones, 75, was found dead at Cedar Gap Park in Harker Heights last fall from a gunshot wound to the chest less than 24 hours after he was fired from KISD following an accident involving a child and a Ford F-150 on the first day of in-person school. Read more about the accident here: https://bit.ly/3dtdHmR.

The Herald asked current school board members and board candidates for their reaction to the Jones family’s transportation concerns. Four people are running for two seats on the Killeen Independent School District board of trustees in the upcoming May 1 election. Riakos “Rock” Adams is running against Cullen Mills for retiring board member Minerva Trujillo’s Place 6 seat. Lan Carter is running against three-term incumbent board president JoAnn Purser for her Place 7 seat.

Here is what the candidates, in alphabetical order, had to say about the issue:

Riakos “Rock” Adams

Do you think Mr. Jones’ termination was handled properly?

I do not think Mr. Jones’ termination was handled properly. The injury of a student is a major issue and should be treated seriously and with a lot of care and concern for all involved. The lack of due process for all employees was unjust. Thankfully it is in place now. Even though there was not any due process at the time of Mr. Jones’ firing, Mr. Jones, at the most should have just been suspended pending an investigation. That investigation should have included an inspection of the vehicle, a drug and alcohol test, and review of policy decisions. Secondly, the community should have been kept informed (without violating certain privacy rules).

What do you think KISD could/should have been done differently?

As an Army retiree, veteran and member of the same Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, I attended Mr. Jones’ funeral and memorial. Everyone that spoke had nothing but nice things to say about him and how he felt about driving children. I began thinking about him being a Vietnam Veteran and possibly seeing helicopters taking injured comrades away; and then wondering what effect it would have for him seeing the same thing happening to one of his student riders. I do not know if he suffered from PTSD or if he had any other issues, but this was a sensitive situation. Veterans have been used to structured responses to incidents like these. The swift decision made by the leadership was too reactive. There should be a system in place that is more proactive and holistic.

I have heard complaints from bus drivers and believe maybe it is time for a review of the entire transportation department’s operations and be transparent about its findings. Transparency dispels rumors and promotes solutions to concerns and issues. When we know better we do better.

Lan Carter

Do you think Mr. Jones’ termination was handled properly?

No, I do not believe Mr. Jones’ termination was handled properly. It seemed the District’s approach was a rushed, punitive reaction. It was a failed attempt to control negative publicity regarding the accident, rather than focus on conducting a thorough investigation. It’s unfortunate that someone who spent over a decade with the District was not given a fair hearing.

What do you think KISD could/should have been done differently?

“Just as the District went almost silent about Ms. Maya’s arrest, it should have done the same for this situation. It should have stated the known facts and informed the public that nothing else would be mentioned until after a thorough investigation would be conducted. Mr. Jones would be afforded due process and have had time to hire an attorney/advocate if felt the need. He should have been placed on leave with pay during the investigation, not immediately terminated.”

Cullen Mills

Do you think Mr. Jones’ termination was handled properly?

The entire incident has been a tragedy for all parties involved. These allegations cannot and should not be taken lightly. With that being said, these remain allegations and I do not want to speculate on what was said or done in the aftermath of these events. Those questions and answers should be taken up directly with Killeen ISD and those directly involved with this situation.

What do you think KISD could/should have been done differently?

As it relates to the treatment of our transportation workers, I believe employee morale is often as important as money and wages. We need to recognize and appreciate not just those in our transportation department but all of our auxiliary staff that work tirelessly to make our district operate. These men and women work hard behind the scenes and don’t often enough receive the praise that they deserve.

JoAnn Purser

The incumbent KISD board president and school board candidate did not reply to the Herald's emailed questions. She told the Herald Friday she could not speak to the allegations in absence of a suicide note or additional facts, but she did release the following statement:

“It’s very difficult for me to make a statement without all the facts, and I want to be empathetic to this sensitive subject,” Purser said by phone Friday afternoon.

On Thursday, Purser cautioned the Herald from writing about the subject.

“This is a very dangerous role and game that you’re about to play,” she said. “I’m just worried about - I think you’re trying to stir up something. I’m concerned and I just want to make sure you have all the facts.”

Board Members

School board members Susan Jones, Shelley Wells, Minerva Trujillo, Marvin Rainwater, and Corbett Lawler did not respond to the Herald’s questions by deadline Friday.

Board secretary Brett Williams said, “I’ve spoken with administration and I will continue to monitor developments.” However, he did not answer the specific questions from the Herald.

ldodd@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

(2) comments

Rick31

Folks, the ones that answered the Yes/No question with a Yes or a No get my vote in the upcoming election! The "Tragedy for all parties involved" comment cheapens the injury and the loss of life and the other answers were simply shameful! Thank you Riakos Adams ands Lan Carter for answering a Yes/No answer with a yes/no.n. Whether I agree with your answer or not, at least you had the moral turpitude to answer!

RooDawg913

"Moral turpitude"? Answering with a yes or no response without know ALL of the facts would seem to be an opinion. How could Adams or Carter REALLY know if KISD was right or not without being privy to the information about the investigation. The Killeen Daily Herald should just put out a poll and ask everyone else. I'm sure others would have an opinion as well. I prefer someone who is willing to look at ALL of the facts in regards to a situation like this before openly commenting.

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