D15 Parents, Drivers Take Issue With Bus Outsourcing

The District 15 school board learned two companies out of five bid on outsourcing of bus services, and heard concerns from parents, bus drivers and union representatives.

The District 15 Board of Education Tuesday learned two companies have provided bids to outsource bus services, and they also heard from a several people saying it just shouldn’t be done.

Unease about the proposal to hire a private company for busing services focused mainly on safety issues, in addition to breaking up what is described as a strong community of drivers who not only work in the district, but are community members.

“Parents know us as drivers, they know we are safe, professional,” said John Hall, a District 15 bus driver for the last five years. “People that work for these private companies have no reason to stay-poor wages, poor benefits, no major medical-you will produce a transient workforce.”

Hall went on to say he is not only a District 15 employee, but a taxpayer as well, and wouldn’t mind spending a few more dollars on his property tax bill to ensure the children who live in the school district are safe.

“I know you will make the right decision if you let your conscience guide you here,” Hall said.

Other parents expressed strong unease due to the needs of their children, who they say are very well served with the current district bus drivers.

“My daughter has special needs, and is non-verbal, she can’t tell me if she is being hurt or mistreated. I know every single person my daughter goes off to school with, and her safety is not a concern of mine,” said Deanna Gile, District 15 parent. “Please don’t add that to all the things I already have to be concerned with.”

Caren Ulrich, the president of the District 15 Transportation Union warned the board of the large number of safety issues that she says occur regularly with lower quality employees who are employed by for-profit busing companies.

“We know the community, children, parents and the neighborhoods, that’s especially important in today’s world of uncertainty,” Ulrich said.

She added that all district bus drivers have been thoroughly checked out by the district.

“If problems arise, D15 has the authority to handle them. What can get lost in this process is the harm on people, the real people who live and work and maintain homes and mortgages, buy groceries and go to church here,” Ulrich said. 

Ulrich said if the district does chooses to outsource, D15 bus drivers would be lumped together with possibly thousands of other drivers, and transfers or lay-offs could become a real possibility, in addition to lower wages with no benefits.

“If you believe that this school district will maintain the same type of quality we have today, you are mistaken,” Ulrich said.

Ulrich also said the union learned discussions between the outsourcing companies and the school district commenced much earlier that they were made aware of.

“We believe some of the district’s actions have violated our rights under our agreement, and [if we fight this] the lawyers will make a bundle,” she said. “We want to work here and we want to keep our jobs here and we are willing to work with you to make that happen.”

The current transportation budget is roughly $9 million, which represents slightly more than 6 percent of the overall budget, according to Mike Adamczyk, assistant superintendent for business and auxillary services/treasurer.

The portion of that $9 million that covers bus driver salary and benefits is $6.5 million-which the school district is considering outourcing.

The remaining costs relate to the fleet itself, which is owned by the school district, in addition to maintenance and other related upkeep costs.

Adamczyk said two out of the five transportation companies the distrist reached out to provided bids for what would be a three-year contract.

The first company, First Student bid $7.5 million for the upcoming school year, with an increase of $100,000 each year for the following two years. Durham, the second company, bid $6.7 for 2013-2014, and then decreased their cost for the next two years to $6.5 million.

Now, the bids will be more closely examined, and will include three members of the board of education as part of a negotiating team, to determine if it is the right step to move to outsourcing bus services.

Negotiating team members will include President Tim Millar, who will not seek re-election in April, Vice President Scott Herr and board member Manjula Sriram.

A full summary of the bids, and how they compare to what the district is spending currently on transportation costs will be presented at the February 13 board meeting.

“No decision has been made yet, we are still working to determine if this is the right move for the district,” said Jim Garwood, deputy superintendent. 

A public hearing on the issue will occur in the spring, Garwood said. 

D B L D January 23, 2013 at 05:22 AM
@ the system you appear to have some insight as to what the BOE is doing behind closed doors. It also sounds like the DTU has caught the BOE with "their hand in the cookie jar". Violating contracts, violating Illinois State Law and ignoring what the community wants for their own personal gain. Maybe it's time for the community to review the actions of members of the BOE and employees (ie. superintendent and deputy superintendents) and determine if indeed they have used their positions for personal gain versus what is in the best interest of the district. Earlier you shared that Tim Millar stated " ( in closed session ) about how he (TIM MILLAR) WILL outsource transportation by APRIL 13 2013? " Again that would violate contracts the district has with the DTU, violate Illinois State law and not involve the community in the decision making process. Do these people think they are above the law? Maybe they need to talk to Rob Blogoavich! What message are they sending to the students in the district who are learning about goverrment responsability and ETHICS?
D B L D January 26, 2013 at 11:31 PM
The District 15 Board of Education will be holding a SPECIAL MEETING to discuss the bids for Transportation Services on TUESDAY, JANUARY 29 at 6 PM at the DISTRICT OFFICE, 580 N 1st Bank Dr, Palatine. Please plan to attend, and spread the word to friends and supporters. Thank you.
D B L D February 21, 2013 at 05:15 AM
CHECK OUT WHAT D211 HAS TO SAY ABOUT BUS SERVICE D211 touts benefits of in-house bus system (1) Safety, the ability to hire qualified drivers and overseeing training of each driver are some of the benefits to having its own transportation fleet, District 211 says. For Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211, providing transportation to all students isn't a simple task. With a student population of more than 12,500, having an in-house transportation program helps the district oversee operations and ensure safe travel. These measures start from day one during a driver's training and continue on through daily routines. Safety, the ability to hire qualified drivers and overseeing training of each driver are some of the few benefits to having a transportation fleet that is entirely run by the district. Many school districts contract their transportation system, which has the ability to leave schools with a slight disconnect.
D B L D February 21, 2013 at 05:34 AM
CONT. One of the benefits to having an in-house transportation system is the responsiveness, the ability to build relationships between the district, drivers, and students, and connecting with the community," said Raymond Gawron, director of Transportation and Driver Education. On an average day, 9,751 students are transported to and from school. There are 165 transportation employees who all work to safely transport students, and District 211 hires and trains each of its drivers. Although the state requires a minimum amount of hours for Commercial Driver's Licenses, District 211's requirements go above and beyond state requirements. Drivers are subject to random drug testing, and if there ever is an incident or accident, the school has the right to investigate. Each driver is required to do daily checks on their equipment before and after they drive their route. After each route, shift and day, drivers are required to shut off the vehicle and walk to the rear of the bus to check for remaining passengers and lost belongings. If a vehicle is found to have a problem prior to a route, that vehicle is taken out of commission and brought to the bus garage on the Palatine High School campus, where District 211's own mechanics can service it. During the 2011-12 academic year, District 211's transportation fleet used 165 yellow busses and 38 vans to travel more than 1,583,769 miles. With in-house certified mechanics, if something is wrong, it can be fixed quickly.
D B L D February 21, 2013 at 05:35 AM
CONT. Gawron said that although District 211 isn't the only school district that manages its own fleet, it's starting to become rare. It's a goal to continue having an in-house system "to transport our students to and from school in a safe and efficient manner," he said. DO OUR YOUNGER, MORE VULNERABLE CHILDREN IN K-6 AND THE JR. HIGH STUDENTS DESERVE LESS CONSIDERATION AND PROTECTION?????? Is it Palatine children in Palatine schools in D211 and CCSD15 or is it the "MILLAR KINGDOM" His way or no way? In the end it is YOUR choice, let your voice be heard.


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