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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Overheard: Busing Problems

The bloom is off the rose.
That idea that if you "consolidate" busing you'll save boatloads of cash and you won't have problems, well...
First there was the decision the Ypsilanti school board made that the Ypsilanti schools had to spend up to $180,000 on non-WISD buses to solve chronic problems with buses being late. That came two months into the school year.
(And that is not a school district that is rolling in dough.)

Now this past week I heard about some problems in the Ann Arbor district, and they are mighty troubling.

Guess what? On some routes, buses in Ann Arbor are still late almost every day.
(And parents are being told by principals, it is out of my hands. Call the WISD.)

I'm told that minutes in the day count.  They do, right?

But much worse than that, I overheard a parent ask a principal, in a public meeting,
"What should I do about bullying on the bus?"

And the principal said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Well if it is between two students from the same school, tell the school. If it is kids from different schools, that is a difficult problem. You should still tell us and maybe we can help, but really you need to call the WISD."

And to make matters even worse, the parent said later to me--and was echoed by others--
"We call and we call the WISD, and nobody ever calls us back." and
"The bus drivers on the routes change frequently, and they either don't know the kids' names or don't really care."
(Does that have to do with them getting paid less, or is it just because the WISD doesn't know how to schedule drivers consistently on the same routes?)

Accountability.
Where is it?
How much are we saving?
Is it worth it?
How many bullying incidents are not being prevented?

It's time for an evaluation.
It's time to make the WISD publicly accountable.
I'd like to know...is it just a matter of time to "work out the kinks?"
If that's the case, let's identify them and work them out!
Or is it that we were sold a boatload of hogwash, and the bus drivers got sold down the river?
And if that's the case, how can we rectify the situation?

6 comments:

  1. I emailed the former principal of Slauson asking who to contact about problems on the bus that the driver was ignoring. She responded, looked into it, and handled it quickly and effectively. I was very impressed and grateful. The students were from both Slauson and the Open school.

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  2. That's good...you say "former" principal. Was that before the WISD took over? The impression I get is that people knew how to handle the problems before the WISD took over, and now they don't...so if your example was after the WISD took over, maybe the principal could share what she did so others could follow suit. If it was before, then the question is: what to do now?

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  3. I agree with you, Ruth! It is time for evaluation. Consolidation was mainly designed to bust the drivers unions; immediately in A2, Ypsi and Willow Run, and over the next few years in the rest of the districts. It was cobbled together so quickly, there was little doubt it would be badly managed. "Quality of service" was never a serious concern, because they know that if it is seen as a failure, they can just go back to individual districts running their transportation or put out an RFP and privatize the whole deal. But the unions are gone (although workers are currently in the middle of a union election campaign, which appears to be moving towards MEA recognition within the next 30 days).
    Ypsilanti BOE members worked hard to iron out their late buses and finally gave in to privatization on a small scale (cracking the door open), becasue the WISD was intransigent. It must have been a very frustrating experience for them. Myself and others are still trying to determine why we weren't hired (at least what their rationale was -- we know we were discriminated against because of our union activities) and get our jobs back.

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  4. Another story that indicates poor management. A friend was walking with her daughter in Ypsi when a bus driver stopped and asked her for directions. Not only has Ypsi needed to contract out for additional bus services, but with the consolidated bus system they apparently can't even figure out how to put maps in the buses.

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  5. @Chuck: Lest we forget (as the ISD, AAPS and no doubt the reporters at AA.Com already have) consolidation was hyped with the promise of GPS devices in buses. That has not happened yet. But then, I seriously doubt that they've saved a penny... Ypsi has been having a hard time of it. Many drivers for Ann Arbor have been sent over there to cover short-staffing (and obviously don't know the area. Ypsi had approximately 60 workers prior to consolidation, of which only 10 returned post consolidation.

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  6. For a bit more info on the current status of the MEA's union organizing drive at the WISD, check out my blog: http://a2schoolbus.blogspot.com/2010/12/teamsters-local-214-out-mea-vs-no-union.html

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