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Letter to the Editor: District 15 Bus Driver Talks Potential Outsourcing

Palatine resident, and District 15 parent and Bus Driver Carol Cochran discusses what she believes will be the impact of outsourcing bus services on the school district and children.

Dear District 15 Parents and Community Members,

The recent and unexpected disclosure that the District 15 school board is taking bids to outsource its drivers and bus aides has left many in our community feeling stressed, upset and even victimized. 

I certainly feel that way. I know many of you do, too.

Our drivers and aides live here, work here and devote their working lives to the students. We know that no private company in the world will ever match the safe and reliable service our employees bring to the children every day. They can't do it. They won't do it. 

Bid proposals submitted by private for-profit companies were received by the District on January 10. Those proposals will be reviewed at the Wednesday, January 16 school board meeting. 

We are asking all concerned citizens, their families, and friends to come to the next District 15 Board meeting at 7 p.m. on January 16, at Sundling Jr. High School (located at 1100 N. Smith St. in Palatine) to show the Board that we care about the children, that we care about our employees, that our unemployment will hurt everyone, and that the best and safest drivers in the world already work right here in District 15.

At this meeting, bus drivers (myself included) and transportation aides will share their stories about their experiences working for private companies. 

For example: I have driven a school bus for nearly 11 years, with almost 7 of those years in our district. Prior to that, I worked with First Student. During my time working there, it was not uncommon for First Student to bus-in drivers from the South side of Chicago to cover routes in my area, which included Long Grove, Buffalo Grove, Vernon Hills, Lincolnshire, Deerfield and Highland Park.

This is just one example of the many personal accounts you will hear. At the previous meeting, a board member referred to these stories as "scare tactics". However, how can these stories be termed as such if they are true, actual events?

At the board meeting, you will also hear stories from parents about positive, personal experiences with our dedicated drivers and aides. This is where we need your help.

As representatives of your schools and concerned parents, we urge you to get involved and show your support. Here's how you can help.

1. Attend the board meeting at Sundling Jr. High School. Please share with the Board any and all concerns you have should the outsourcing occur and how it will negatively impact your children and community.

2. Reach out to your friends, neighbors, fellow parents and school community to do the same. 

3. If you cannot attend the meeting in person, please call and/or write to the Board Members with your thoughts and concerns. Here is the link:

http://www.ccsd15.net/pages/CCSD15/Board_of_Education_Group/Meet_Your_Board_of_Education 

4. Sign the petition to the school board and encourage other concerned citizens to sign. Here is the link: 

https://www.change.org/petitions/ccsd15-school-board-do-not-outsource-the-district-15-transportation-department## 

5. Visit our website for more information. www.district15drivers.org 

6. Visit our Facebook page "District 15 Transportation Union" and share our page with friends, neighbors, parents, etc. 

We as a community can come together to prevent our children from becoming yet another horror story that you hear about so often in the media when private companies take on the task of getting your children to and from school. 

Now is the time to get involved. As other school districts have found out the hard way: 
•  Once a community outsources its Transportation Department, it will never get it back. 
•  Once a community outsources its Transportation Department, the problems don’t go away….but the community does lose its ability to locally manage those problems. 

This fight is not over. Our drivers and aides have already made it clear to the school board that nothing is more important to us than our jobs - and that we are willing to work with the board to find cost savings and preserve our department. 

But we can't do it without each of you. Please come to the school board meeting on Wednesday, January 16 at 7 p.m. at Sundling JHS. 

Sincerely, 

Carol Cochran 
Parent, Resident and Bus Driver of District 15

Editor's note: Letters to the Editor are presented as they are originally submitted by our readers. Palatine Patch neither agrees nor disagrees with the opinions presented. 

LS January 15, 2013 at 02:33 PM
Very good letter. This issue, just as the late start issue, dramatically affects students and parents. We, the parents and taxpayers, have a voice if we choose to raise it. Please sign the petition below indicating you would like an open discussion on the late start/early dismissal topic with the opportunity for parent and taxpayer input on the ideal day of the week for the late start or early release. It is not a matter of if it is going to happen. They have already signed the time into the contract but the contract does not stipulate a day or whether it be before or after school. Thank you for your support. If we do not get the support on the petition, we will not be heard. 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 If you would like to fill out the District survey on this topic, the address for the survey can be found below. Please note that the survey directs parents to only vote for the few options that the CTC and Superintendent prefer. https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LateStartEarlyRelease
Scott January 15, 2013 at 02:36 PM
"Our drivers and aides have already made it clear to the school board that nothing is more important to us than our jobs ". At least they're honest.
Scott January 15, 2013 at 02:39 PM
"During my time working there, it was not uncommon for First Student to bus-in drivers from the South side of Chicago to cover routes in my area" What is inherently unsafe about that? What if they were from Lisle? Would that be OK? How about drivers from Bolingbrook?
Catherine January 15, 2013 at 02:42 PM
You have my support Carol. I'll be there on Wednesday.
Louise January 15, 2013 at 03:20 PM
Which school board candidates will the District 15 Transportation Union fund and provide manpower? Will there be a "spontaneous" effort to distribute campaign signs this election cycle?
D15parentanddriver January 15, 2013 at 03:30 PM
The fact of the matter is that drivers who don't live around our district, don't know our district. They don't know the schools, the students, the "ins and outs" of what we do daily. It would be like sending our drivers to do routes in Chicago, or Bolingbrook, or Lisle.
D15parentanddriver January 15, 2013 at 03:39 PM
Just to make it clear to others reading the comments that it was never said in the letter that it would be "unsafe".
Scott January 15, 2013 at 03:44 PM
D15parentanddriver - how close does a driver have to live to D15 to "know our district"? Does Arlington Hts count? How about Elk Grove then? Glendale Heights? When are they too far away? Or is only "South side of Chicago" a problem?
D15parentanddriver January 15, 2013 at 04:01 PM
With the many First Student locations, one does not know where the drivers would come from. There is currently a driver who formerly worked for First Student who was sent to Detroit at one time.
I Think January 15, 2013 at 05:02 PM
Try driving in an unfamiliar area, in vehicle you've never driver before, trying to read routing and bus stop directions, while attempting to maintain a time schedule with up to 71 elementary students sitting in the seats behind you. Does that sound like the safest way to get your kids to school? It sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.
Scott January 15, 2013 at 06:42 PM
Apparently "I Think" read safety into the letter also. And if was not safety being addressed why the comment on drivers being from (key scary music) "the South side of Chicago"?
Mike K January 16, 2013 at 02:36 AM
I don't see the problem. They will learn the routes just like any new driver. Our current bus driver isn't someone I knew before the start of the school year. I got to know him just like I'll get to know the driver next year. And the year after that. Didn't I read that the new company has to, by state law, attempt to hire the existing drivers to fill the routes anyway? I say, let the jobs go to who ever can do the best job and an affordable rate.
Richard January 17, 2013 at 03:45 AM
Really? And how did the schools in Cicero feel when your drivers were driving their kids to school from Arlington Race track? Palatine drivers in Cicero??? Seems to me if you remember correctly, those routes were set up and done for your district for many years by a Contractor that your school district hired. Once the routes were established and run for three years, your Palatine drivers took the routes over from the "Contractor" and now your Palatine drivers are going way out of town. So before throwing stones, let the people in your district know the whole story. We contractors are good people just like you. Any Bus Driver who talks down about another bus driver is not a professional.
james urban January 17, 2013 at 04:02 PM
what is really a joke here is how much money it costs for bus service. when did it become so expensive for school bus service. I would love to see how much the transportation ADMINISTRATORS make because I can guarantee you the bus drivers are not making alot of money.
Richard January 17, 2013 at 08:30 PM
James, a lot of that money goes to fuel costs, though school districts get a break on the cost from the Fed's, it's still expensive. Another large portion is Insurance on the vehicles.
D B L D January 18, 2013 at 02:50 AM
James check out the salary increase for the director of transportation. 30% not a typo 30%. 112K for a job that on industry standards would pay under 85K.
james urban January 18, 2013 at 04:16 PM
richard gas does not cost 6.5 million why is it that costs to run schools and anything else that is associated to the schools so ASTRONOMICALLY costly
james urban January 18, 2013 at 04:20 PM
d b l d not to mention tht he probably has a pension thats pays him double that salary. and I know many people in the PRIVATE transportation sector that make no where near what these people make in the public sector. The reason the salaries are so high in the PUBLIC sector is that they know anytime they want MORE they can just tax you. ITS CALLED THE TAX LEVY EXTENSION LAW. In d230, they just got a 1.7% increase along with the 1.3% cook county nailed all of us for and every school district took a raise. When the PUBLIC SECTOR makes twice as much as the people who pay their salaries there is a BIG PROBLEM.
Richard January 19, 2013 at 05:05 PM
James, you hit the point directly on the head with the Tax levy stuff. All I know is this, I've worked for a contractor for over 30 years, I've worked hand in hand with school districts and the "premadonna" bus drivers who think that they are better than everyone else. Look, We all have to go through the same slides, hoops and ladders just to get a permit, upgraded class of license and all the training and continued training throughout our career. Hopefully the district drivers get the same level that Contractors need to go through which are specified by the highest standards of the State & Federal laws. I know of personal experiences of School districts that don't follow all regulations for their drivers, i.e. Random drug tests, State & Federal background checks, yearly driver evaluations, etc. Yet they're paid higher than any other bus drivers in the state. Then these same bus drivers can't figure out that when a school district wants to farm out their routes to save a buck, the scare tactics ensue with all the what if's! By law, when a Contractor takes over a district, those district drivers have first shot at keeping their routes & pay for the first year.
Richard January 19, 2013 at 05:06 PM
Cost cutting measures? School districts also usually buy or lease the top of the line full option school buses. Contractors, while being a basic bus, still have the options needed for a comfortable ride for everyone without being a "Rolls Royce" of buses. So when a district wants to save money for their own pockets, they put out bids for a contractor. Contractors are well versed in State & Federal laws, Safety, training and commitment towards what is best for the student or adults that they transport. They are Mom's, Dad's, Grandparents, Brother's & Sister's who drive the buses just like the District drivers. They live and work in the same areas and districts as the District drivers do. They are not "the scary people from the South side of Chicago!"
Sub-Bus January 19, 2013 at 11:05 PM
Why just outsource the drivers, secretary and dispatchers? why are they keeping the buses in house to fuel them and maintain them? That cost money!! Why not just get rid of all the headaches and just sell the asset? Why not outsource the food department or the costoidains and or the Teachers. Why just the bus drivers, is it because they are union? Or is it for the transportation diractor so he will not have the headaches he has now with his drivers. This is the only solution I have. He will still have his job,benifits and raises and maybe a bonus!! Maybe these people who's idea to outsource the drivers should take pay cuts!!
james urban January 20, 2013 at 12:34 AM
you know very well that will not happen. I can tell you and no one will back this up, the ISBE has been trying to eliminate buses associated to the district for many years because of the insurance liability to the district. If you look it up online there are only a few districts left that have bus services. Palatine has been slow to change but it is a cost cutting measure as well as a insurance liability issue that they would rather have the bus companies handle.
Richard January 20, 2013 at 03:18 AM
And some school districts already have buses that are owned by contractors with the school districts name on the side. Look closely on the right side of the bus under the DOT numbers.
DurhamDriver February 20, 2013 at 10:29 PM
I originally drove for a district until the contract was awarded to Durham. I was also affraid to that I would loose my job, route, etc.... Durham did hire all the drivers that were driving for the district. I don't believe they would let you go and bring in other drivers. It wouldn't make sense to lose all the experience you bring to the table. Durham did communicate this to us but we didn't beleive them until they actually rehired us. Request a meeting with Durham. We did and they came. Give them a chance. I'm happy doing the same route that I had when I was with the district.
DurhamDriver February 20, 2013 at 10:32 PM
This is true! I'm a living testimony!!
Richard February 21, 2013 at 05:16 AM
So, what's happening at Palatine, are they still talking or has it been put on the back burner until Spring? Sad to hear District 26 lost Durham to Grand Prairie at Tuesday night's School Board meeting. Somebody at that district is gonna get a raise!!!!!
Richard February 21, 2013 at 05:27 AM
As I said, the Contractor by State statue is supposed to hire any and all drivers of said district when they take over the busing. And they have to honor the pay scale for one year. Palatine drivers wouldn't be displaced unless they choose to be. Plus, working for a contractor, the Training is at a higher standard, Physical Dexterity Tests would be implemented and some of them could become a Professional Federally mandated I.C.C. Bus Driver. It's a win, win situation both for the District Families and Drivers combined.
Sub-Bus March 02, 2013 at 11:32 PM
@Richard if you want to know whats going on with School DIstrict 15 Palatine, things have just Started to HEATED UP!! You can find alot of INTERESTING info on www.district15drivers.org
D B L D March 03, 2013 at 03:58 AM
PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN I have tried to follow all that is going on with the Palatine bus drivers and the school board. There seems to be a lot of FALSE OR HALF TRUTH coming from the school board. Their financial numbers for cost savings have been chalenged and proved wrong, their figures for the directors salary come up wrong. What else have they been reporting inaccuratly?? It apears the drivers union has been talking with the BOE for several months and when they came to the negotiating table the BOE stabbed them in the back with a complete revision of the existing contract written by a board member instead of a professional negotiator (not to mention he is leaving) . IT'S HARD TO SEPERATE MYTH FROM FACT when you know you have been lied to so many times by the BOE
D15parentanddriver March 21, 2013 at 08:54 PM
Not to say that I don't love the patch, but I know someone out there questioned that the cadidates Bokor, Babcock, Seiffert, and Ekeberg were officially endorsed, by the Daily Herald. Here you go; http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20130320/discuss/703209767/?interstitial=1

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