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UPDATED: Parents Concerned Over District 15 Possible Busing Privitization

District 15 issued a press release in response to parent concerns over whether potential cost savings are worth the perceived threats to safety and well-being. A petition has been started on Change.org to fight against the possibility.

UPDATED: Thursday, Dec. 19 9:15 a.m.

District 15 issued a press release late Thursday to clarify how the district will move forward in regards to the possiblity of outsourcing bus services. 

The release stated that due to significant reductions in state reimbursements for transportation, a consultant was utilized to determine what cost savings would be. There currently is a negotiated contract between the school district and the District 15 Transportation Union (DTU). 

"For the 2012-13 school year, District 15 allocated approximately $6 million in salaries and expenses to support student transportation services. Preliminary estimates project annual savings at approximately $600,000," the release stated. 

In addition to previously stated concerns, Camille Burner, a D15 parent, reached out to Palatine Patch and expressed fears that salaries would be lowered for employees if bus services were privatized - and that move could attract less qualified individuals unable to find other work. 

Superintendent Scott Thompson conceded lower salaries are a possibility, but after consulting with other schools districts, said services have apparently not been affected. 

"My colleagues have been very happy with the services, and there were no complaints outside of ordinary parent complaints," Thompson said. 

Burner suggested trying to trim the cost of busing children, by transporting them to schools closer to where they live.

"It’s become very complicated on where children attend schools, there have been a lot of conversations; it would require redistricting, and moving kids around to get them to a closer school, but we couldn’t house all students at the schools they live nearest to," Thompson said. 

A timeline also was provided by the school district in regards to how the process will move forward:

  • Bids received and preliminarily reviewed (January 10)
  • Bids shared with the Board (January 16)
  • Discussions/negotiations with the DTU (late January-March)
  • Bids analyzed and discussed at Board meeting (February 13)
  • Public hearing on transportation (regular Board meeting in either March or April)

District officials stressed no decisions have been made, and that they are, "committed to ensuring timely, safe and reliable bus service for [our] students. A thorough analysis of all factors and comments will be used in making the final decision," the release stated. 

Concerned parents have started an online petition at Change.org to campaign against the potential proposal. That petition can be found here

Earlier:

A number of District 15 parents are balking at the school board's consideration of bidding out bus services to private companies. 

The issue was presented at Wednesday's school board meeting and included on the agenda under the Superintendent's Report at Wednesday's meeting was "Bid for Transportation Services." 

One parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, expressed a number of concerns: 

"Some things to consider, as a parent, are: The current bus drivers are randomly tested for drug and alcohol use, pass the most stringent of tests, are of the highest quality of people, and overwhelmingly, most live within the community," the parent stated.

"The same cannot be said for outside companies, who hire inferior employees cheaply, and recruit drivers from blight filled areas," the parent said.

Another parent, who also wishes to remain anonymous, brought up the possiblity of District 15 bus drivers, who are school district employees, losing their jobs if the board ultimately decides to go that way.

Superintendent Scott Thompson said the entire issue is only in the early stages, and the board is interested in learning what the cost savings would be. 

"If we were to decide to hire private companies for bus services, the majority of our current drivers would likely begin working for whomever we would hire," Thompson said. 

Within the Board of Education packet materials for Wednesday's meeting, Thompson stated, "Safety and service will remain at the current levels whether or not the district contracts for transportation services."

He added that neighboring school districts who have used private companies have not seen safety or service diminished in any way. 

In regards to termination of current District 15 employees who provide transportation services, Thompson stated as part of any contract with a private company, the firm chosen would be required to offer employment to current D15 employees. 

A Request for Proposal (RFP) was sent out on Wednesday, December 12 to private companies for bid requests, and Thompson stated in the board packet a required public hearing on the issue would be held in late March, 2013. 

Vicki Wilson December 13, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Yes, of course. If Board Members are to do their jobs they were elected to do, they must gather all the data they can. They would not be competent negotiators without gathering the facts first.
Vicki Wilson December 13, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Also, this is very important: Per state law, if the District opts to move forward in engaging a private vendor for its student transportation services, all current employees must be considered for employment by the transportation company for their current positions at their current salary and benefit levels. These employees and any future hires would continue to be subject to criminal background investigations and training requirements that are consistent with the District's current policies.
Scott December 13, 2012 at 06:07 PM
"Some things to consider, as a parent, are: The current bus drivers are randomly tested for drug and alcohol use, pass the most stringent of tests, are of the highest quality of people, and overwhelmingly, most live within the community," the parent stated. "The same cannot be said for outside companies, who hire inferior employees cheaply, and recruit drivers from blight filled areas," the parent said When there is nothing else to use at the time - try FEAR as a tactic!
Vicki Wilson December 14, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing. Why remain anonymous and why would the Patch use that for this story? I was a the Board meeting as were others who would have no issue with publishing our names.
Markus December 14, 2012 at 07:15 AM
Vicki, my thoughts exactly! Why would the husband of the Transportation Union president wish to remain anonymous for this story?
Bucephalus December 14, 2012 at 12:28 PM
And some of us don't want our names broadcast on the internet. There is no requirement that to have meaningful contributions in society you must declare your names. Anonymity does not abrogate your right to free speech. The Federalist Papers, written, in part, by the father of the Constitution James Madison, were published anonymously. The Supreme Court has repeatedly approved anonymous free speech in recent years. Just because you have no problem with putting your name on the internet does not mean the rest of us have to as well.
J R December 14, 2012 at 12:40 PM
It is sad that the school board has decided to look into this option. I would hate to see any of the drivers lose their jobs because the private company can't hire all of them. Could the reason that the school board chose to look at this be because the of the drivers' union? Have they negotiated a pay that is unsustainable and basically negotiated themselves out of a job?
Vicki Wilson December 14, 2012 at 01:41 PM
They would not be doing their jobs if they did not gather the data and ask for more information in advance of the DTU negotiations. Please note that 2 of the BOE members decided to do exactly this: Peggy Babcock and Rich Bokor chose to blatantly shirk their responsibility on Wednesday. One has to wonder why they would be so against being more informed. Our community needs to calmly take this one step at a time and not jump to panic mode and fear-mongering. Please ask yourself what might be the motivation behind folks who choose to spread fear and panic, spread false information, and choose to remain anonymous. There have been several mass emails going around with misinformation and outright lies - one by the husband of the DTU president who did not make this connection in a phone call to me, in his email, or even when he addressed the BOE on Wed. Please look to one's motivation. My only motivation is to have BOE members who are open and transparent to the community, who are accountable to the community they serve, and who put the education and safety of the community's children at the top of the list.
I Think December 14, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Sometime the truth is the truth.
I Think December 14, 2012 at 03:51 PM
The "consultant" that the school board hired is Mike Medin who just happens to work for Cook-Illinois Corporation, a subsidiary of Go-Ahead. Here's what their own website says... "For the past 50 years, both Cook-Illinois Corporation and Go-Ahead Group, based in the United Kingdom, have earned solid reputations for quality contract school bus service and innovation. Go-Ahead is one of the UK’s leading providers of bus and rail services, transporting more than 25% of the area’s daily public transportation via bus and rail services." Does that sound like Mike Medin, the "consultant" might have an unbiased opinion as to whether or not District 15 should privatize its transportation services? Sounds like putting the fox in charge of the hen house to me. And this is who the school board hired. Parents, you need to speak out.
I Think December 14, 2012 at 04:03 PM
A few years ago, a true consultant (not an industry salesman) reported to the board that $650,000 can be saved by going back to the original 3 tiered transportation system which worked so well for over 25 years. Why not implement this savings before something so disruptive as privatization?
I Think December 14, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Just make certain that the facts actually are facts and not a sales pitch by a so-called industry consultant disguised as a factual study.
Vicki Wilson December 14, 2012 at 05:02 PM
They are going through the forma bid process to get accurate data, not getting it from a consultant.
Markus December 14, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Actually that was this year (May 9, 2012): http://www.ccsd15.net/files/_dLCxY_/34694510ab698d973745a49013852ec4/2012-05-09_RegularMinutes.pdf "SUPERINTENDENT’S REPORT Superintendent Scott Thompson presented the Board with a draft version of a transportation consultant’s report outlining the findings of an investigation the District commissioned to identify possible savings within the Transportation Department. The report outlined two key areas where savings could be realized: privatization of transportation services, and/or replacing the District’s current two-tier system with a three-tier route system. It was noted that for a school district run transportation system, District 15’s Transportation Department is running quite optimally." -------------- The way I see it, the prior consultant offered two alternatives that could be done separately or together (privatize and/or go to three-tiered). All that is being done now is gathering more information on the "privatize" element. No harm getting that additional information as far as I can see.
I Think December 14, 2012 at 07:12 PM
I'm sorry, but I have the report submitted by Mike Medin entitled "Saving District Resources in Transportation" which is Agenda Item No. 12-517 from the May 9 board packet.
I Think December 14, 2012 at 07:16 PM
My point is that the 3 tier system had been used successfully in this district for years. Since it is agreed that this is a cost-saver, why not implement it now? $650,000 is a lot of money.
Julie Koepke December 15, 2012 at 02:30 AM
We could down on transportation costs significantly if families went to schools closest to their homes! I don't understand why Thomas Jefferson now has approximately 40% of their students bussed from areas that live closer to other district 15 schools. And then when the kids from Thomas Jefferson go to Junior High School, they are bused over 6 miles away to Carl Sandburg when Plum Grove Jr High is half that distance away.
Scott December 15, 2012 at 04:15 AM
Julie - I'm sure if you have a plan that has all the kids fitting into the school that's closest to them Super. Thompson would love to see it. I do have to wonder if the mileage is the driving factor. Once you pick up all the kids in a neighborhood does it really matter if you drive them one mile to school, or five miles, or whatever? You're still paying the same costs for the driver, and most of the same costs for the bus (with the obvious increase in fuel). But is the fuel a major component?
Bucephalus December 15, 2012 at 05:14 PM
The problem, Julie, is the location of the schools. You have four junior highs: Sandburg, Plum Grove, Winston, and Sundling. None of them are particularly close to TJ and Whiteley. The schools all have to be roughly equal in size simply because that's what the schools were built for. So looking at the map below, what would your solution be? Should all the kids who live near to Plum Grove go to Sandburg? There are Sundling kids, who live a lot closer to Plum Grove as well. Student populations drive the boundaries. http://www.ccsd15.net/files/_iCBXb_/3ee26a206ab508253745a49013852ec4/MapJuniorHigh2004sd15_jhs_2000web.jpg
Vicki Wilson December 17, 2012 at 02:03 PM
That consultant's study is not what this is about. They are going through the formal bid process in order to gather facts in light of the DTU contract expiring in 2013. They will be getting actual data in order to do their jobs.
Maureen December 21, 2012 at 02:08 AM
I need to clarify many statements, school bus drivers who work at outsourced companies also are randomly tested for drug and alcohol use, pass the same most stringent of tests, can be the highest quality of people, and usually, live within the community. Outsourced companies do not always "hire inferior employees cheaply, and recruit drivers from blight filled areas." You should never assume all outsourced companies are terrible.
D B L D December 31, 2012 at 11:18 PM
did Babcock and Bokar "shirk their responsibility" or have they just kept themselves well informed of what other districts in the area have gone through in the last 5 years? After outsourcing several near by school districts are trying to get the service back in house. I agree with you "Our community needs to calmly take this one step at a time" the problem is knowing whose facts to trust. When the BOE wants to pass a tax levy they talk of the 3% being ONLY $72 per household annually. When they talk of SAVINGS in transportation they talk of POSSIBLY saving $600,000. That is a large figure BUT, only 0.004% ( less then 1/2 of 1%) of the total budget. Not sure of the math formula BUT if 3% of the budget is a $72 increase on a $300,000 home then wouldn't a o.oo4% savings be equal to about a $10 annual savings to out source the childrens safety?
Cheryl January 06, 2013 at 09:53 PM
I have had dealings with both District 25 and District 214 both in Arlington Heights school buses with my sons - kids made to sit on the floor or stairs or stops not made because kids were waiting in the garage because of cold and rainy weather. This would NEVER happen on a District 15 bus. Our drivers care for THEIR kids on the bus. This is what you have to look forward to if we outsource!
I Think January 06, 2013 at 11:07 PM
Private bus companies' salaries are low and benefits non-existant. The majority of their drivers are people who are desperate for a job of any kind. When a better job becomes available, they leave the private school bus industry, causing a round robin of substitute bus drivers taking the kids to school. The safest, best scenario is a professional staff of long-term committed drivers who are familiar with the routes and the students. You do not get this with private companies...ask parents in Mt. Prospect, Des Plaines and other surrounding communities.
D15parentanddriver January 11, 2013 at 03:26 PM
Cheryl, this is exactly what the community needs to hear at the Jan 16 board meeting. Please consider attending and speaking to the board regarding your experiences with a private company. At last months meeting a board member referred to these types of situations as "scare tactics" but if they are true and actual facts, it is just that....true and actual facts.
D15parentanddriver January 11, 2013 at 03:28 PM
Cheryl, this is exactly what the community needs to hear at the Jan 16 board meeting. Please consider attending and speaking to the board regarding your experiences with a private company. At last months meeting a board member referred to these types of situations as "scare tactics" but if they are true and actual facts, it is just that....true and actual facts.
LS January 11, 2013 at 06:36 PM
The address for the survey can be found below: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LateStartEarlyRelease The address for the petition can be found below: http://www.change.org/petitions/ccsd15-school-board-listen-to-constituents-late-arrival-early-dismissal-schedule-enrichment-time-end-of-the-day-friday-no-lost-instruction-time
sharon suchowski January 12, 2013 at 04:08 AM
I have worked for companies before that worked well at the beginning.The moral was good and after drastic changes the moral of the company changed. That is one of my biggest concerns. At present we have a team of drivers that look out for each other. I consistantly hear general concern for each other ,as well as, the students. Over the past few months I have taken the opportunity to speak to different drivers who work for outsource companies. The first comment I hear is pay is terrible,moral is bad. I have asked about health ins and have been told they offer it ,however it is not affordable. The financial issue will cause drivers to leave. Which is ashame. I have never worked for a company that I love as much as this one . I look forward to work each day . I honestly love driving the children and talking to the parents. The idea that this could be my last year is incredibly sad. I honestly hope you will talk with the union and work things out. They have made it clear they are willing to work with you.I think you should give them that chance.
sharon suchowski January 12, 2013 at 10:51 AM
My hope is that the board will not only talk to communities that outsource . They will talk to ones that tried it and went back. Over the past couple of months I have had the opportunity to talk to drivers that work for outsource companies. The comments about current positions and benefits is incorrect . Insurance is made available in some cases ,however it is not affordable. There would be a substantial pay cut. The simple truth is many drivers will have to move on simply because they will not be able to live. It saddens me to think this may be my last year here. I absolutely love working for this company. I look forward to going to work each day . There is a general concern for other drivers and the students that is beyond words . The union has made it clear to the board that they are willing to work with them . I believe the BOE should give them that opportunity
Jude Bramer February 21, 2013 at 12:06 AM
LS: you are posting about a different issue. The survey and petition you link to are dealing with the potential "late-start/early-out" question. The petition against outsourcing the bus drivers is here: https://www.change.org/petitions/ccsd15-school-board-do-not-outsource-the-district-15-transportation-department

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