Category Archives: School.Bus

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

Source: Anastasia Dawson, Tampa Bay Times, December 11, 2017

As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey has learned all the tricks to get her kids out of bed and off to school every morning. But this year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every school day with a knot in her stomach. It’s been there ever since the first day of classes, when a contracted driver from American Logistics Company pulled into her Riverview driveway to take Owen, her 5-year-old deaf son, to Doby Elementary School in Apollo Beach. “They had no identification, no logo on the van and they didn’t even bring car seats, I watched them try to strap my 50-pound kid into the front seat,” Storey said. … This is the fourth year the Hillsborough School District has used American Logistics Company to transport students protected by federal laws that allow them to attend a different school than the one assigned to their home address. Like Owen Storey, most are in specialized Exceptional Student Education programs. … The School District has paid out $1.4 million to ALC Transportation since entering a contract with the company in December 2013, district officials said. … Yet even with the high price tag, parents such as Storey say they shouldn’t have to fear for their child’s safety when they’re being driven to and from school. Although the same driver is supposed to transport a student all year, at least 10 different people drove Owen to school before frequent phone calls and emails to ALC secured a permanent driver, his mother said.

… ALC was hired in 2013 because it wasn’t financially feasible to continue transporting these students with district school buses and staff, Beekman said. … The same year the California-based company began driving Hillsborough students it was ousted from Dallas County schools in Texas. In September 2013, the Dallas Morning News reported that the School District returned to using school buses to transport special-needs students after parents flooded district offices with safety concerns and complaints about poor communication with drivers. … The Hillsborough School Board reapproved its contract with ALC in September after Beekman explained that bringing those transportation services in-house would have to wait until the School District “gets to a place of better financial stability.” Staff are already working out the costs in a “preliminary business plan,” he said. …

Dallas district takes steps to operate its own school buses

Source: Mike Kennedy, American School and University, December 4, 2017

As expected, the Dallas school district is moving forward on taking over its own bus operations. The Dallas Morning News reports that the school system plans to pick up the pieces — including 925 buses and over 1,100 employees — from the soon-to-be-shuttered Dallas County Schools bus agency. Running its own in-house busing operations was the district’s most viable option, says Scott Layne, the Dallas district’s deputy superintendent for operations. Voters decided in November to shut down Dallas County Schools after numerous failings, including financial mismanagement, unpaid traffic violations and a questionable business deal involving stop-arm cameras. … According to a district analysis, Dallas is the only one among the state’s six largest school districts to use a vendor for busing, and cost-per-rider rate in Dallas was the highest among the six districts. The size of the district, spanning 384 square miles and parts of 16 different cities, makes it too difficult to find a transportation contractor for 2018-19, Layne says. Any outside vendor could take years to get online, needing time to assemble a fleet of buses and hire staff. … Layne expects the district will hire many of bus agency’s existing staff, including bus drivers, dispatchers, mechanics and monitors. At this point, it’s unclear how many of the 925 buses allocated to the Dallas district are leased by the bus agency, and it is uncertain whether those leases would be considered as part of the debt that would be absorbed in the dissolution of the contractor. A penny tax rate levied on property in the county will stay in effect until all of the bus contractors’ debt is paid off. …

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Report on Embattled School Bus Agency: ‘Ignorance, Incompetence, Negligence and Criminal Conduct’
Source: Scott Friedman and Jack Douglas Jr., NBC 5, November 16, 2017

A critical analysis, withheld for months by the former administrators of the Dallas County Schools bus agency, has now been released to NBC 5 Investigates, suggesting crimes were committed in a deal that cost taxpayers millions of dollars. The author of the report, former FBI agent Dennis Brady, didn’t mince words, stating that “ignorance” … “incompetence” … “negligence,” and possibly “criminal conduct” contributed to the financial woes for the school bus agency. The internal report, written last spring, was commissioned by the former board members for Dallas County Schools, in an attempt to determine whether crimes were committed in dealings between DCS and Force Multiplier Solutions, the company hired to equip school buses with security cameras. … Denise Hickman, the agency’s executive director of business during the deal, raised concerns when paperwork showed Louisiana businessman Slater Swartwood Sr. profited from the deal. Swartwood is linked to Force Multiplier Solutions, a company Dallas County Schools worked with on the camera business venture that got the agency into financial trouble in 2012. The purchase agreement describes Swartwood as the agency’s broker. He earned a $750,000 fee and nearly $200,000 was paid by the agency. Swartwood told the TV station in an email that he worked as a consultant for the buyer and didn’t know Dallas County Schools paid a portion of the fee. Force Multiplier Solutions is also linked with more than $245,000 in campaign contributions to the agency’s board president, Larry Duncan. …

Judge to decide fate of Dallas school bus contract
Source: Bob Kalinowski, Citizens Voice, June 27, 2013

Luzerne County Judge Michael Vough has a big decision on his hands regarding a multimillion-dollar bus contract in the Dallas School District.

Depending how he rules, a company that held the contract for decades could be forced out of business or another could be stuck with $2.1 million worth of new buses purchased to fulfill its newly awarded contract.

The school’s longtime contract holder Dallas-based Emanuel Bus Lines has asked Vough to grant an injunction to terminate the school’s new contract with Pike County-based G. Davis Inc.

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. ….

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