Transportation and the condition the district’s buses are in were main topics of discussion for the Twin Valley Community Local Board of Education at their Monday, Feb. 24 meeting.
The board heard from Don Strebig, regarding transportation. Strebig, a school bus driver for the district, expressed his concerns in regard to the condition of the school’s buses.
The “five year forecast” in terms of transportation, involves potentially purchasing a new “used” bus. The prices of these used buses are currently higher, however, posing an obstacle for the board.
“When we did the five-year forecast back in October, that was done assuming that without knowing if the levy would pass or fail, and so at that time, we didn’t budget anything for a used bus. However, it will be back in the budget again probably next year, looking at purchasing a used bus, if we can find one that looks like it’s worth the money,” said treasurer Rachel Tait.
Tait said funds for buses come from the “general fund” and there is no specific fund for buses.
Strebig presented the board with information regarding each bus currently in the fleet for the Twin Valley Community Schools.
“The thing is, then, what are we going to do for more funding?” said Strebig. “We’re going to be getting between a rock and a hard spot, we are now. Because most of our buses are getting quite ‘ancient’,” said Strebig. The current fleet of buses for the district have reached a mileage of up to 208,000 miles, and pose a danger on highways, he said.
“Usually when I take trips where I could use the interstate, I go back roads,” said Strebig. “Those buses are getting very rotted out. I’m talking rust, I’m talking serious rust… I was an auto mechanic years ago, I’m not a decent mechanic, but you don’t have to see a lot of this stuff to understand it. I’ve patched holes in bus six and nine, not only on the outside, but on the insides. There’s been cross-braces replaced on some of the buses.”
Strebig said the board should invest money in new “used” buses, instead of spending money on repairing issues in the existing buses.
“I understand your concerns,” said board member Sean Maggard.
“I don’t think the school here does understand our concerns,” said Strebig. “I’ll defend Mr. (Lee) Myers. He’s done the best he can with the money he has. And I won’t chastise Mr. Myers. That I’m not here for. We’re doing with what we have… We have some of the most duties compared to some of the bus drivers in the areas. There’s some bus drivers that don’t even wash their buses. Well guess what, we wash our buses, we add all our own fluids, we have got to be an inspector of our buses, we gotta diagnose our buses, because half the times, we got a bus down, you ask any of the drivers, they’d just as soon drive their own bus, because all these buses, and the buses we have, all have their own characteristics, and you get in one bus, you don’t know how it’s going to act compared to another bus,” said Strebig.
Strebig explained that drivers repair their own buses in order to avoid driving “another piece of junk” that could potentially be worse.
“Everyone here is doing more with less, it’s not just the bus drivers or the bus fleet. It’s in the whole school; and we tried to address that by passing the levy and we’re going to try to continue to address that as we move forward. So your points are well taken, and I don’t want you to feel like I’m not listening, but our hands have been tied,” said Maggard.
“I understand that teaching the kids is most important, I understand that. But as for doing some of the maintenance, I mean we got SmartBoards, we got this, we got that, well you know what? Some of that stuff could have been cut because we learned with a chalk board and an eraser,” said Strebig.
“Yeah, but today’s world is a lot different than when you grew up,” said Maggard.
(An attendee at the meeting noted, the SmartBoards were purchased by the Parent Teacher Organization.)
“Technology is something kids have to know by the time they get to college, you didn’t have to. So we need to be aggressive with that in the high school area, so cutting those areas I don’t think are necessarily the right move,” said Maggard.
“But, you know, teachers have the responsibilities to do their jobs, and I don’t think you understand the responsibilities we have to do our jobs. Not only are we bus drivers, we’re teachers. We’re counselors, we’re medics, we’re hazardous waste people who handle hazardous waste. We’re custodians, basically the same thing. We’re persons of authority, we’re referees… You can’t lose control of a classroom and run into a tree and kill somebody. You can do it with a bus,” said Strebig.
“People ask, ‘why do you even drive a bus?’ I just want to say a few things; you know, we got bus problems… you got problems with the kids, gotta deal with the noise, gotta deal with the traffic, you know. And like I say, we got sub-par equipment, and you’re worrying whether you’re going to make it or not… I’ll tell you this from my part. It’s very rewarding driving a bus at times. Now, why do I do it? Yeah, you’re getting some money… but you can get gifts, hugs… you’re a celebrity sometimes… there’s benefits, there’s perks… I’m not just talking about us driving a crappy bus, I’m talking about us driving a crappy bus with a bunch of kids in there that we gotta take care of and worry about,” said Strebig.
Strebig told a story of a driver who drove two routes without the feeling in her feet due to the cold, and buses are to be equipped with thermometers. “That’s where I have a problem with… you are defending Mr. Meyers, but at the same time, Mr. Meyers is the one that’s sending you guys out in those buses,” said Maggard. “If the heater’s broke, Mr. Myers should know and he shouldn’t send somebody out in that bus.”
In terms of future plans for financing buses, Maggard said. “Our future was very bleak, until a couple months ago when the levy got passed. Now we’re just in the planning stage of how we’re going to rebuild. So one of the things is bringing back that bus fund and trying to make some type of capital improvement fund where we can put a small amount of money in there every so often to eventually build it enough where have $150,000 to buy a bus.”
“But at the rate we’re going with what we have, we’ll never get that fund,” said Strebig.
Strebig suggested hosting drives such as spaghetti dinners and other fundraisers to raise money for bus funding.
Jason DeLong asked Strebig in a perfect “utopia”, how many buses are needed for routes, to which Strebig replied eight buses, but ten would be ideal. Outsourcing to vendors for busing was suggested, however, board member Tim Beneke requested seeking information on the option.
In other business:
The board heard from Kathy Poor regarding various topics such as payment for her employees in regard to the increased snow days. Poor also discussed the transfer of $15,000 to the Cafeteria Fund in regard to a staff member utilizing sick days for the remainder of the school year due to a medical condition.
The board heard from Dr. Clint Moore on behalf of Principal Scott Cottingim, who was absent, regarding the high school musical, The Little Mermaid.
Patti Holly said the elementary school’s teachers are in need of funding for professional development instruction.
Dr. Marvin Horton spoke in regard to M.A.P., an electronic assessment and research-based assessments.
The board also heard from Derrick Myers regarding his purchase of 60 Google-affiliated Chrome Books, Internet access, and the increase of wireless-access points.
Dr. Clint Moore spoke on matters such as inventories, student transportation services, eligibility zones for pupil transportation, school bus safety programs, drug testing for district personnel required to hold a CDL, admission of exchange students, admission of inter-district transfer students, and student records.
Moore also discussed the district calendar for 2014 and 2015. Calamity days will be alleviated by utilizing Saturdays for classes, as well as adding 30-minute increments to the end of the school days. Moore also discussed middle school supervision, as well as senior citizen event passes.
The board entered executive session to discuss personnel matters as well as to prepare for negotiations.