Category Archives: School.Bus

RPS board votes to outsource bus driver jobs

Source: Corina Curry, Rockford Register Star, May 9, 2017
 
The Rockford School Board voted 5-2 tonight to accept a bid from First Student and begin negotiating a contract with the private company, thereby outsourcing bus driver jobs.  First Student’s bid — the only one the district received after a request for proposals — was slightly more than $35.7 million for three years. The district’s estimated three-year cost to keep busing in-house is just over $36.1 million or about $426,000 more than the First Student proposal. … If First Student hires more than 50 percent of the district’s bus drivers, the bus drivers union — American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1275 — will remain intact, and drivers will begin contract negotiations with First Student, said Robert Rutkoski, First Student area general manager.  Bus drivers, nutrition service workers and teachers’ aides — all of whom are represented by AFSCME unions — went on strike for three days in March for better pay and more affordable insurance rates. …

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RPS looks to save $425K by privatizing bus services
Source: Corina Curry, Rockford Register Star, May 2, 2017
 
Rockford Public Schools hopes to save a little more than $426,000 in labor costs over the next three years by outsourcing bus driver jobs.  District leaders discussed a bid from Ohio-based First Student tonight during a public hearing. A team from First Student — the only company to bid on bus service — gave a presentation and answered questions from board members and union representatives. There was a time for public comment, as well. About 60 people attended the meeting. … Union leaders also said they think First Student’s proposal would end up costing the district $500,000 more over the next three years.  “Our experience as a union, the research that we’ve done, lends us to believe that this proposition will cost taxpayers more and will be less safe for children,” said Ed Sadlowski, staff representative for AFSCME Council 31.  The school district is in the process of seeking bids to outsource food services, as well. …

RPS 205 Board Considers Outsourcing Bus Drivers
Source: Gregory Cormier, My Stateline, May 2, 2017

Just before 3p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, Rockford School District 205 buses can be seen going about their daily routine outside of Auburn High School. A routine however, that could see major changes for the men and women behind the wheel. “It’s unsettling, it’s not about kids at all, it’s a distraction,” said AFSCME Council 31Representative Edward Sadlowski. “The board needs to come to it’s senses and do right by children,” he added, upset that the Rockford Public School District is considering bids from a third party to outsource jobs for bus drivers. He thinks if done, it will cost the district more. “This is a more costly proposition, outsourcing and privatization of Rockford resources to Cincinnati and the United Kingdom,” he said. …

School bus company benched in Detroit because of insurance problem

Source: Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press, April 4, 2017

A company that provides school bus service to nearly 3,000 students in Detroit didn’t meet the proper insurance requirements, an issue that came to light Monday night and forced the Detroit Public Schools Community District to scramble to reassign the company’s bus routes. Safeway Transportation is one of four companies that provides transportation services to the district. Interim Superintendent Alycia Meriweather worked with the remaining companies to take over Safeway’s 67 routes, according to a statement from the district tonight. … Keith January, who heads the AFSCME Local 345, which represents bus attendants, said he wasn’t sure what prompted the change in bus service. He said he was notified yesterday that Safeway “would not be transporting the special-needs students for the district until further notice.” The bus attendants are assigned to buses that transport students who receive special-education services. While the change in bus routes affected all students transported by Safeway, January said he hadn’t heard about delays on the buses that his attendants are assigned to. …

School bus driver fired after video shows driver ignoring stop signs

Source: WBRZ, March 22, 2017

A school bus driver has been fired after video surfaced showing the bus driving through stop signs in a suburban area without stopping. Shocking video taken by a driver shows the bus plowing through stop signs in the Woodland Ridge neighborhood. The bus serves the Louisiana School for the Deaf, but the school contracts bus services through a private company called First Student. First Student announced Wednesday that the driver had been fired, one day after our initial report on the video. …

Pottsville Area seeks to outsource buses

Source: Amy Marchiano, Republican Herald, March 17, 2017

The Pottsville Area school board voted Wednesday to potentially outsource its bus transportation. The board voted unanimously for the administration to accept request for proposals regarding busing students. The RFPs are due today and will be opened at 10 a.m. at the Howard S. Fernsler Academic Center. A pre-bid meeting was held at 10 a.m. March 6 at the academic center. Superintendent Jeffrey S. Zwiebel said about five interested companies attended. … Last year, the district also solicited for RFPs and also wanted to sell its fleet of vehicles. Three companies attended a pre-bid meeting last March. The district decided not to outsource busing last year. …

Officials: Suspended Helena school bus driver acted on company’s direction

Source: Jesse Chaney, Independent Record, March 17, 2017

The Helena school bus driver who was temporarily suspended for leaving two young children at an unfamiliar school without an adult was directed to do so by the school district’s transportation company, officials said. “The driver acted on the direction of First Student,” Helena Public Schools Superintendent Jack Copps said Friday, adding that several school district officials listened to an audio recording that confirms the radio conversation between the bus driver and a dispatcher with the company. The school district has a contract with First Student to provide its transportation services. In a written complaint to Helena Public Schools, Layla Davies said her 6-year-old child and three of his siblings were on a bus that left from Central-Linc School Wednesday when he vomited on himself. The four students were supposed to transfer to another bus at Jefferson School, she wrote, but the driver would not let her 6-year-old and 8-year-old get on the second bus. Davies later found the two young students walking down Broadway Street, her complaint said. Both of them were scared and her youngest was covered in vomit, she wrote. …

Emails Reveal Mechanical Issues on Board First Student Buses, Fresno Mom Fears for Child’s Safety

Source: Angela Greenwood, YourCentralValley.com, March 8, 2017

Eyewitness News investigates safety concerns surrounding special education transportation within Fresno Unified. First Student buses transport all special needs kids within the district. Following a bus fire back in September, Eyewitness News began looking closely at the bus company, uncovering email correspondence that reveal a history of multiple mechanical issues. … Following an Eyewitness News Investigation into a First sSudent bus that caught fire while transporting two disabled students in September, we were contacted by parents claiming the air conditioners on their child’s buses were broken. We also received a picture from two different people claiming to be former and current first student bus drivers of a bus completely engulfed in flames at Rio Vista and Manning on the outskirts of Reedley. .

.. Emails that we obtained through a public record’s request when we first began looking more closely at the bus company. The emails are between Fresno Unified transportation and special education officials and staff as well as First Student management. Three months of correspondence from August of 2016 to October of 2016, reveal nearly 200 exchanges and dozens of concerns. In one email, a Fresno Unified staff member says a driver picked up students but then returned minutes later because the air conditioner wasn’t working. The email went onto to say the same bus had the same problem the day before and according to the driver, maintenance couldn’t find the issue. The very next day, a concerned principal mentions that very bus transports four students who have seizure disorders and reminds that heat induces seizures. … Claims of other mechanical issues also brought up. Twice in one week, the wheelchair lifts on a bus were allegedly broken. In another email, a principal claims it took one bus more than an hour to turn it’s engine over. …

Two Face Charges After Missing Teen Found In New Rochelle

Source: Zak Failla, New Rochelle Daily Voice, March 6, 2017

Two were arrested in New Rochelle over the weekend after “purposely misleading” police during an “exhaustive search” for a missing autistic teenager, authorities said. Shortly after midnight on Saturday, March 4, police received a call from a mother reporting that her 16-year-old child, who has special needs, had gone missing after he was supposed to be dropped off by Mount Vernon-based First Student Inc. Bus hours earlier following an event in New Rochelle that he attends regularly. … Police stated that “it became apparent that numerous safety procedures violated placing the child at risk and that New Rochelle Police Department had been purposely misled with false information, placing the child at substantial risk of harm, delaying and delaying and misdirecting search efforts.” …

Inside Celerity charter school network, questionable spending and potential conflicts of interest abound

Source: Anna M. Phillips and Adam Elmahrek, Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2017

… [Celerity Education Group founder Vielka] McFarlane was prospering, and it showed. She wore Armani suits, ate at expensive restaurants and used a black car service. Financial records obtained by The Times show that, as Celerity’s CEO, she paid for many of these expenses with a credit card belonging to her charter schools, which receive the bulk of their funding from the state. … At a time when charter school advocates are determined to increase the number of such schools in L.A., the story of McFarlane and the Celerity schools offers a case study of the growing difficulty of regulating them. The task of spotting and stamping out risky financial practices in charters largely falls to the school district’s charter schools division, which employs about a dozen people dedicated to monitoring the schools’ fiscal health. But as the number of L.A. charter schools has grown to more than 220, enrolling about 111,000 students, oversight has become a challenge for district officials, who are at once competitors and regulators. … In 2015, McFarlane became the CEO of Celerity Global, an organization that took in millions of dollars in management fees from Celerity’s schools. But Global wasn’t just supporting the schools; it had the power to control Celerity Educational and could appoint and remove the school network’s board members. It also served as a shield. In documents laying out their findings, L.A. Unified officials complained that McFarlane and her staff repeatedly rebuffed the district’s requests for information and acted in ways “designed to reduce, or eliminate, transparency.” … Records obtained by The Times offer some insight into why the Celerity network has drawn federal attention. They show years of questionable spending and potential conflicts of interest over a period of time when former teachers said the schools lacked basic supplies and often leaned on students to fundraise. …

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Federal agents raid Los Angeles charter school network
Source: Anna M. Phillips, Howard Blume and Matt Hamilton, Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2017

Federal agents raided the offices of a network of Los Angeles charter schools Wednesday as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of fraud and fiscal mismanagement. The charter organization, Celerity Educational Group, opened its first L.A. school more than a decade ago, but it has recently drawn the scrutiny of the inspector general of the Los Angeles Unified School District and the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles. It currently manages seven schools in Southern California, and has ties to four more in Louisiana, all of which are publicly funded but privately operated and exempt from many of the regulations that govern traditional schools. … Holmquist added that it is his understanding that the focus of the investigation is not Celerity’s schools, but the Celerity organization that manages them, as well as businesses that have relationships with the charter group. … The first signs that Celerity and its Los Angeles schools might be in trouble came in 2015. The organization had petitioned L.A. Unified to allow it to open two new charter schools, an application process it had gone through successfully several times before. But this time, L.A. Unified’s school board said no. School district officials raised new concerns over the charter school organization’s finances and its complex governance structure. In their final report, in which they advised board members to reject the group’s charter petition, they accused Celerity’s leaders of unorthodox fiscal practices, such as borrowing money from one school in order to pay another schools’ bills, spending money on expenses unrelated to the school and commingling the organization’s finances with those of separate legal entities. …

School District investigation shows failed charter school bus inspections
Source: Jim Spiewak, NBC2, June 1, 2015

Back in April dozens of students escaped a bus after it caught fire – a quick thinking bus driver saving their lives. Now we know the company that operated that bus — had eleven other buses fail inspection. The reports obtained by NBC2 show emergency equipment that didn’t work, gauges and wipers that were out of service and front and back breaks that needed replacing. Academy Transport owns those buses. It was hired by Celerity Education Group – which runs three Charter Schools in Lee County. The report of the bus that caught fire still has not been produced. These are not District owned or maintained buses. Charter schools contract with private bus companies to take kids to and from school. Since the beginning of April, Celerity, has avoided providing us with bus inspection reports. ….

NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral

Ishpeming won’t privatize busing

Source: Jerry Tudor, WLUC TV6, March 17, 2017

After plenty of discussion and deliberation the Ishpeming School District has decided not to privatize its busing operations. Talks began about nine months ago, and one company did a presentation during a school board meeting explaining their interest. The deadline for proposals was March 1st. Since that time, school officials discussed and researched the proposal and determined it wouldn’t be in the school’s best financial interest. … Bus drivers in Ishpeming will remain in their current contracts and will continue at the same pay rate. …

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Community unites against privatizing transportation in local school district
Source: Chelsea Birdsall, ABC 10, February 23, 2017

With a deficit in its budget, the Ishpeming Public School District has been looking for ways to cut the budget to leave more money for education. One idea going through the Board of Education is privatizing the busing system for the district. Rallying against the idea, community members came to voice their opinion against privatization. Dressed in black and adorned with yellow buttons, over fifty community members were in attendance at Wednesday night’s Ishpeming Board of Education Meeting. The hot topic of discussion was whether or not the district should privatize transportation in order to satisfy a more balanced budget. According to Superintendent Carrie Meyers, the Department of Treasury has inquired about the fiscal state of the district, and while it hasn’t been determined to be under fiscal stress quite yet, they’re looking for ways to avoid it without affecting students in the classroom. Over the last year, the board has mulled over the concept of privatization and has heard a handful of presentations from potential candidates while launching their own investigation into the matter.

Ishpeming School Board weighs privatization of busing
Source: Lisa Bowers, Mining Journal, November 22, 2016

The Ishpeming School Board is considering privatization of its busing system as a potential cost saving measure. The board heard a presentation from Dean Transportation, a company out of the Lansing area, and Checker Transport of Marquette. Dean Transportation representative Patrick Dean said his company currently partners with 125 different school districts in the Lower Peninsula in 35 locations with approximately 1,400 school busses. The company provides a variety of services including general education transportation, regional special education transportation, field trips, driver support services and transportation management services, Dean said. … Dean Transportation will work in concert with Checker Transport of Marquette. Checker currently provides busing services for North Star Academy. … According to its website, Lamers Bus Lines Inc. offers services in locations throughout the state of Wisconsin, one in Florida and one in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Lamers currently provides busing services to the Calumet – Laurium District Schools, Houghton Public Schools and Hancock Public Schools. Betty Mongiat, who has been a bus driver in the Ishpeming School district for 29 years, said she had concerns about how a private company would handle day-to-day problems with the buses. … IPS Superintendent Carrie Meyer said the presentations were just the first step in the process. “We are just in the preliminary stages with looking at privatizing busing,” Meyer said. She said she is in the process of creating a request for proposals that will include information about the buses the district has and the routes they cover. Meyer said she expects the RFP to be ready to go before the Finance Committee in December. The Finance Committee will then make a recommendation to the school board as to whether or not to send out the RFP and then post for bids. …

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Woodmore bus crash: Can county turn back clock on bus privatization?

Source: Zack Peterson, Times Free Press, December 31, 2016

Green belongs to an old guard of local drivers who have largely been phased out of work since Hamilton County brought in its first private transportation company nearly 15 years ago. That 84-person group has dwindled to 49, he said. … They remember a prophetic report in 2001 warning school board members of the safety and accountability concerns that private companies bring. They remember the school board claiming it could save $1 million on a switch. And everyone will always remember Nov. 21, when a 24-year-old Durham School Services bus driver swerved into a utility pole and a tree with 37 Woodmore Elementary children onboard. … Now, as Green sits on his bus, he wonders whether the county could abandon Durham and return to a more robust system of local contractors that he believes is safer. … To understand the transportation arrangement, you have to go back to 1997, when Jesse Register came to oversee the merger of Chattanooga and Hamilton County schools as superintendent. For years, the separate county and city systems had developed different transportation arrangements. While the city had purchased a bus fleet and hired its own drivers over the years, the county had signed contracts with 84 independent owners like Green. After spending the first few years on magnet school programs and rezoning, Register turned his eye to transportation in 2001 and reached a difficult conclusion: It was too expensive to let both systems continue operating side by side. … Since there had been no tax increase and the district depended on funding from the County Commission, Register said he and other school board members moved to convert to one private transportation firm. After putting out feelers, three bids came in from Durham School Services, First Student and Laidlaw. The school board wanted to keep local contractors in the picture, Register said, in effect creating one private company in addition to the 84 drivers who already existed. … Over time, as local contractors have retired or grown too old, their routes have kicked over to the private company in place. The county struck a four-year deal with First Student in 2002, which ended four years later when school board members said they wanted a stronger contract to make the next private busing company more accountable to them, archives show. Durham won the next contract in 2007. Local contractors pushed back on the changes, and during the 2001 bidding process they took their concerns to attorney Tracy Wooden, who recounted their concerns about losing their livelihood under a privatized system in a 30-page report. …

… There’s talk of this contract because community members and some officials have expressed concerns about communication and accountability in light of the Woodmore crash. CEO David Duke told the Times Free Press earlier this month Durham only received two complaints against 24-year-old Johnthony Walker over speeding before the crash. Afterward, Hamilton County Schools released more than 30 pages of complaints and correspondence about Walker, including handwritten letters from students and a parent citing the driver’s speeding and recklessness. But Durham, which provides the majority of the county’s 250 buses and drivers, didn’t receive several of them, Duke said. …

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Exclusive: Tennessee State Senator Calls for Hearings on School Bus Privatization
Source: Mike Elk, Pay Day Report, November 29, 2016

In the wake of a tragic school bus accident in Chattanooga that left 6 children dead, many are seeking for ways to reform the current system that allows school districts to outsource busing to privatized companies. An investigative report by Payday Report first revealed that Durham School Services had a long history of worker intimidation, safety violations, and low wages, which some say make it difficult to attract qualified drivers. Now, following Payday’s reporting, State Senator Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville), the Chairman of Senate Democratic Caucus, is calling for the State Senate to convene hearings on the danger of outsourcing school bus services. … Yarbo’s call comes as Republican Governor Bill Haslam has also called for examining the safety risks of outsourcing school bus services to private companies. … Its unclear if Haslam intends to push legislation to address school bus privatization. However, Haslam is increasingly facing calls to pay school bus drivers better and ensure that contractors hold contractors accountable for safety violations. According to federal safety data, Durham School Services has been involved in 346 crashes in the past two years. These accidents have resulted in 142 injuries and 3 fatalities. During that same time period, the company was cited 53 times for “unsafe driving conditions”.  According to data compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, “93% of motor carriers in the same safety event group have better on-road performance” than Durham. …

Tennessee Governor Says Outsourcing Buses Needs To Be Reassessed After Chattanooga Crash
Source: Chas Sisk, Nashville Public Radio, November 28, 2016

After last week’s school bus crash in Chattanooga, Governor Bill Haslam says Tennessee’s leaders need to reassess how to use private companies to operate buses. Emails show administrators were warned about the driver of the bus months ago. The accident has claimed six lives, and Haslam says it appears to be a sign of deeper problems. … One big question is why 24-year-old Johnthony Walker was driving a school bus. Parents, teachers, even the kids themselves had complained he was dangerous behind the wheel. Walker was said to be unrepentant when criticized about his driving, but because he was employed by a private bus contractor, administrators say their options for dealing with him were limited. Haslam seems to be saying districts should get more power to discipline drivers. He stops short of saying outsourcing is a bad idea in all circumstances.