GM bus contract approved

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The Groveport Madison school district has a new transportation contract, just in time for buses to start running for the start of the 2007-08 school year.

At a July 25 special meeting, the Groveport Madison Board of Education held a nearly two hour closed executive session to discuss the details of the contract with Petermann, the company which has handled the district’s transportation needs for the last several years. About 25 of the district’s 89 drivers waited to hear the district’s decision on the contract.

Groveport Madison Superintendent Scott McKenzie said the district has been negotiating the contract for student transportation for about four months, and eventually sought out the assistance of the TransPar Group, nationally known transportation consultants from Kansas City, Mo.

McKenzie said student transportation is a huge part of the district’s operating budget, so negotiating transportation contracts is always a big deal.

"We’re doing a lot of belt-tightening now, so we sought out their assistance so we could get all the inefficiencies out of the contract," he said. "Their help has been tremendous. We really learned a lot from the experts."

McKenzie said the district began the process by conducting an audit of the actual routing method by taking an allegorical snapshot of a day in the life of the district’s transportation process.

"Data was gathered and analyzed by the TransPar consultants," he said. "This data then developed the basis for our negotiations."

The end result is a two year contract, with options to renew the contract for the third and fourth years if both parties feel satisfied with the agreement.

"This will provide stability for the district and stability for the employees of Petermann," McKenzie emphasized.

In addition, McKenzie said the district has set forth an agreement to measure the success of the operations and to determine whether a third or fourth year contract extension is warranted. They include:

•Bus service operates 95 percent on time based on total number dispatches.

•The company will maintain an annual accident rate at or below 1.2 accidents per 100,000 miles.

•All billing will be invoiced within 15 days from service and no revisions will be made after 90 days from service.

•Administrative staff and board members will be periodically surveyed. The company shall receive a 75 percent or better satisfaction rating.

Other highlights of the agreement include:

•All overage charges will be eliminated.

•Simplified billing will allow better monitoring of monthly charges.

•A reduction from 88 to 79 routes to begin the 2007-08 school year.

•Elimination of high-maintenance buses, thus substantially reducing the maintenance costs.

"This contract should serve our district well for the immediate future," McKenzie noted. "It will allow us to begin a normal bell schedule after being on split sessions during Petermann’s last tenure. This will give them a level playing field in which to demonstrate their abilities, and above all, create a more stable process for our students."

McKenzie said the first year of the contract is budgeted at $5.2 million.

"And that’s really the maximum it will cost," he said. "We’re planning on it going down."

In addition, there is a 4 percent per year cost increase reflected in the transportation contract, McKenzie noted.

The new contract will not affect school starting times announced earlier this summer, McKenzie noted, and bus schedules will be posted on the district’s Web site in August.

Board member Teresa Burch said she is pleased with the contract because Petermann appears to be concerned with student safety.

"It’s written in the contract that drivers will have no more than four points (for accidents on their driving records)," she said.

In addition, Burch said she is pleased with Petermann’s regular and random drug and alcohol testing.

"I think that in itself ensures that our students are getting the best out of our drivers," she said.

Sealey’s trip to England

Groveport Madison Board of Education member Dr. Naomi Sealey has returned from a conference in England and plans to present a report on her experience at the next board meeting.

Sealey attended a roundtable on "The Dynamics of Modern School Leadership" at Harris Manchester College in Oxford, England from July 15-20.

"I’m just really excited about all the strategies I learned," Sealey said. "It was a very worthwhile trip, absolutely."

Sealey said she was one of 11 presenters from the United States, Canada and Europe, and her topic was adequate yearly process.

"After each presenter we had a discussion," she said. "It was such a worthwhile week. We did a lot of strategizing; we did a lot of talking."

In particular, Sealey said, she would like to implement some concepts she learned for improved security and curriculum strategies at Groveport Madison High School.

Sending Sealey on this trip caused some controversy within the school district. Some board members, as well as members of the community, believed it was not an appropriate way to spend money in an already financially struggling district. After much discussion, the district paid $2,550 of the $2,940 registration fee, and Sealey paid for airfare and other costs associated with the conference.

Sealey said she will present a full report on her experience to the board at their next regular meeting, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 8 at the Madison Township Center, 4575 Madison Lane.

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