Archive for Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Company pitches contract bus service to Baldwin USD 348 board

Baldwin USD 348 Board of Education

Baldwin USD 348 Board of Education

May 29, 2012

The Baldwin USD 348 Board of Education will hear a proposal next month from a private company interested in providing contact bus service for the district.

At its May 21 meeting, the board agreed to put on its June 11 special meeting agenda a proposal from Apple Bus Service to provide bus service to the district with the start of the 2012-2013 school year.

Superintendent Paul Dorathy said Apple approached the district about the possibility. The company specializes in providing service to school districts of Baldwin’s size, he said.

“They came to us,” he said. “We told them to shoot us a proposal, so we can see if it makes sense financially or not. I don’t know if we’re going through with it. That’s up to the board.”

The company’s Web site identifies Apple Bus Service as a Kansas City area family owned company that provides service to school districts in three states. A map on the site indicates most of those districts are along the Kansas-Missouri line and include the Garnett, Osawatomie and Spring Hill districts on the Kansas side and the Raymore-Peculiar, Cass-Midway and Butler districts in Missouri.

Dorathy said the proposal would have the district sell its buses to Apple and the company would then supply the district with buses. All Apple’s buses are 8 years old or newer, he said.

As part of the deal, the district would lease its bus barn to the company. Apple would hire and provide benefits for personnel, Dorathy said.

Dorathy said a contract bus service was one thing many patrons proposed the district explore as a cost-saving measure during discussions that led to the closure of Marion Springs and Vinland elementary schools.

With its agreement to hear the Apple proposal, the board delayed a decision on putting video cameras in school buses to monitor student behavior. Board members were told Apple’s buses would come with such cameras.

The board debated but passed on a staff recommendation to install video cameras last year. At the May 21 meeting, board members Bill Busby, Chad Christie, Nick Harris and Ande Parks said they now supported the move, while members Ruth Barkley and Sandy Chapman were opposed.

Chapman said bus cameras needed to be discussed in context with other school security issues.

Comments

Delta_D 1 year, 10 months ago

So does this mean if Baldwin contracts with Apple , all the bus drivers who have worked for the district for years will find themselves suddenly unemployed ?

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1776attorney 1 year, 10 months ago

For more than 50 years, USD 348 has maintained and provided bus service for it's rural, city and extracurricular students just fine. The majority of school districts in the USA provide their own school bus service.

In addition to providing USD 348 students with bus service, the school offers it's bus service to Thomas the Train Tank, Maple Leaf Festival, Baker University and others on a fee basis.

The current school bus program offers the advantages of a local manager with bus drivers who are our neighbors. These people are familiar with our students, neighborhoods, rural area and traditions. The program employs our fellow citizens.

While I understand that Apple Bus Service approached us, and we owe them the opportunity to hear their proposals, I am not of the opinion that this is something that benefits our students, citizens or taxpayers.

I'll repeat what I've said for several years- "We are not a Johnson County school, nor do we want to be modeled after their school districts". While there are many fine Johnson County schools, they come with very high taxation and administrations that can never get enough taxpayer money for programs far in excess of good student learning and preparation.

Over the past 5 years, previous school boards and our current superintendent have tried to drag us into a Johnson County model. Now we are all discovering the high financial costs and unlimited appetite for even more taxpayer funding for these extravagances.

Contract bus services operate on a "profit model". They need to make a profit to stay in business. So while they have a good sales pitch, they exist to earn a profit above what it actually costs to provide bus service. They do not exist to donate services.

So even though Apple Bus Service may have a slick sales pitch, the end game is to make a profit- and at the end of the day, the squeeze is always made to employee costs, service reductions, maintenance delays, etc.

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Torch 1 year, 10 months ago

Pretty sure Apple would employ your fellow citizens as well. It's not like there are hundreds of un-employed bus drivers living in Johnson County who would want to get up at 4:30am to drive to Baldwin to make table-scrap money.

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1776attorney 1 year, 10 months ago

USD 348 administrators should have instituted a better bus turn-over program years ago to replace older buses with newer ones. This didn't happen so the district is now stuck with most buses being 10+ years old. With all the money spent over the past 10 years, it's baffling that the bus service was so low on the list of priorities.

Enlisting contract bus service so we appear to play with the "big districts" is not the answer. Nor is it the solution to covering up past bus service neglect.

We lose the current bus drivers, gain an out of town manager with no ties to the community, and from a business standpoint there are no real savings based on this kind of business model.

My sources tell me that our current superintendent's contract will not be renewed and he is actively looking for employment with another school district before his current contract expires. So USD 348 could be stuck with a 'bad deal' contract bus service with a superintendent who is long gone and out of the picture.

Vote No on this one. This is why we threw out the old school board and voted in people we thought would be wiser, more constraining with expenditures and more in touch with the community and our expectations.

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BaldwinDad 1 year, 10 months ago

1176attorney, I hope you are right about Dorathy being run out of town, after the mess he has made here with cutting education funding in order to keep additional non-educational programs and buildings.

I would say he should be ashamed for what he has done, but having talk to the man on several occasions, I have realized he is a tried and true snake oil politician who feels no remorse for undermining the quality education once provided to the children of this community.

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hyperinflate 1 year, 10 months ago

Hate to be the spoiler here, but the clowns of the last School Board re-upped his contract for 3 years last year. We have two more years of his profound mismanagement to endure.

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1776attorney 1 year, 10 months ago

Yes, this is true. The last shameful action of the past school board was to renew the superintendent's contract. It was the boards last parting stab oin the back to taxpayers. We were all "poked in the eye". Screwing the taxpayers seemed to have been the motto of the previous school board.

However, the superintendent is looking to leave ouir school district before his contract is up. He is actively looking and interviewing with other districts.

The current school board has supposedly indicated they will not be renewing his contract at expiration. Reliable sourcing, but not confirmed 100%.

Which makes this school bus outsourcing even more proposterous. The superintendent won't even be around after it would be implemented.

The school district fires all the current busing staff, sells all the school buses, and lets an out of town company bring in all new out of town employees, buses, and management for the benefit of the private company to earn profits off taxpayers.

Our local school district bus service is tied very locally to the community and thus is better served by being managed by the schools and community.

Wasn't it just last month that the administrators proposed building a new administration and bus facility next to the high school for the school districts bus service? Bad idea in tough economic times, but it calls to question the thought processes going on.

Why can't the school district just "exist" and go month-to-month without baffoonish and unrealistic new proposals popping up almost every month to extract and spend ever more taxpayer monies?

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firetree1966 1 year, 10 months ago

So the district is looking into a big ticket purchase with this bus contract...other than one proposal, will they be accepting/soliciting others? This district is so mismanaged! Same thing has happened with other large purchases.

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dotherightthing 1 year, 10 months ago

DON'T DO IT!!!

I did a study of "privatization" of public services a few years back and this is what I found;

Companies low-ball their initial proposals to get their foot in the door. The most common reason the subject of "privatization" is backed by commissions and boards, is, personnel or mis-management issues they don't want to deal with. It is all about people... current employees of the service suffer the most in terms of loss... especially those that are innocent of contributing to operational problems. Within a very short time, the privatization becomes more costly. The company providing the service will be back before the board requesting price increases with all sorts of justifications. Virtually all the services I researched, became significantly more costly within 5 yrs. of privatizing. ...above and beyond inflation.... Once the service is "privatized", It almost never gets reversed. Once adopted, the taxpayer is shackled to continual price increases regardless of legitimacy. Boards and commissions will not re-invest in the capitol needed to assume management of the service again. This becomes very significant if the privatization company becomes insolvent or goes out of business.

Bottom line.... If a private company can operate a service for profit, government agencies should be able to provide equal or better service for lower cost.

I don't know what is going on that is the basis for considering privatizing the bus service for the Baldwin School District. But, privatizing the service is not the answer. Getting the correct management of the service in place in place is the answer. Employing 1 person with experience and the skills necessary to manage the service is all that is needed. I don't know that they already don't have that person in place... just sayin'. Superintendents should not be the manager of the service. Boards and commissions should resist the temptation to micro-manage services and employ managers with the talent and resolve to do the right thing. The Boards and commissions set the rules, boundaries, and goals.... leave the operation up to those people with the skills and knowledge... if the rules, boundaries, and goals are not being met, change 1 person, not the whole service.

Contact your board members and encourage them to decline the offer and fix problems themselves. It will save you money.

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1776attorney 1 year, 10 months ago

Excellent information, thanks.

A footnote: as part of the proposed privatization, the school district would "sell" all their buses to the bus company. The school district would then have no buses of their own.

What happens in 1, 2 or 5 years if the school district decides privatization is not the way to go? Well, they have to buy all new buses again to provide bus service and that in itself is a huge start-up cost, and it can be a excuse not to revert back (even as the private bus company is raising their fees).

According to my information, the current local manager of the school district's bus service is doing just fine. There are no issues.

There has been a lack by the administration for the past 10 years in replacing old equipment with new buses, and that needs attention.

On the surface, it would seem Apple Bus Service made an unsolicited offer to make a proposal.

I do not believe privatizating is in the best interest of the community, students or taxpayers.

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dotherightthing 1 year, 10 months ago

1776attorney, you are spot-on.....

I would add that the bus service should not be under the superintendent's supervision. Instead, the bus service should retain separate management and communicate directly with the school board. Issues like equipment replacement needs should be communicated directly to the board and not filtered through the superintendent's agenda. This is critical to operating a cost effective service that is governed by budget projections.

An additional note..... the age of the bus fleet is not the finite benchmark of the services performance. A much broader evaluation is needed to make the correct assessment. A professional in fleet management can analyze cost and payback parameters to determine if the equipment needs to be replaced. Safety, reliability, and serviceability are not necessarily exclusive to "new".

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BaldwinDad 1 year, 10 months ago

I would not count on an effective accounting of the best options from Dorathy, it's not like he did it the last time they decided to cut costs or make a major expenditure.

Thus the reason we ended up with a Performing Arts Center and new sports fields for High School and then had to cut the budget for basic K-5 education.

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