Holding Their Feet to the Fire

Just to warn my readers – I have a feeling that, like the first two weeks of school last year, the first two weeks of the Monster’s school this year are going to be full of bussing posts.

After my post yesterday, the operations manager from Baltimore City Public Schools’ transportation forwarded my email to the bus company, relaying my direct requests (that they work to shorten the route and stabilize the driver/aide pairing on the Monster’s bus), and requesting an update by end of business on Friday.  We went to bed with that being the state of affairs.

A certain Mr. Murphy and his infamous law, clearly, are involved now.

I woke this morning to an email back from the manager at Durham Bus Services to the city manager, informing him that they have not intention of ensuring a permanent driver/aide until after the bid period ends (on this coming Thursday) but that he would “make every effort”, and that the route has them picking up the Monster at 7:48, followed by dropping off a bus-full of kids at another elementary school seven minutes later before continuing the route to the Monster’s school.  The city’s transportation operations manager asked Durham’s manager to keep everyone in the loop.

Only one major glaring problem with all of this – the Monster’s bus didn’t stop at that school yesterday with him aboard.  In fact, the other school mentioned by the bus company is across town – 23 minutes away in a best-case scenario – and the bus has been devoid of students each day when it arrives at our house.  I chalked that up with the wife to probably some misunderstanding about our son’s bus, and we got the Monster ready for school.

His bus then arrived at 7:51 AM (only 3 minutes late), with yet a third driver and aide this week, on a different piece of equipment than the bus on the prior two days.  (They didn’t have a reason for their assignment when I asked.)  As my wife watched the proceedings through the bus window while I was getting ready to get into the car, the aide visibly had difficulty with the Monster’s car seat, to the point that apparently the driver had to put the bus in park and head back to help with fastening it.  The bus left our house at 7:54.  I, then, went to work for a little bit, then drove over to the school to go talk to the Monster’s teacher… and then wait for the bus from my car.

9:00 – no bus.  No busses, actually.

In fact, while I sat there, I watched not one, but three other busses from Durham Bus Services pull in late – the first arriving nearly 10 minutes late, and two more over the next 15 minutes.  It wasn’t until 9:34 – thirty-four minutes late for school – that the Monster’s bus pulled in.  He was one of four students who got off the bus at that time.

Well, you all know me at this point.  I’m calm, polite and sweet natured.

My letter to the school afterwards – now including a carbon-copy to the interim CEO of Schools – laid out my issue precisely.  That Durham clearly does not know where this bus is supposed to go, if they believe there is a stop at a school that is an impossible distance away in the time allotted.  That I’m more than happy to provide them, based off my map from Waze that were made while I was driving, of exactly where the bus goes on the route that includes my son.  That this has been an ongoing problem since last school year which was never fully resolved.  And, most importantly, that the school system should know all of this already since according to their own web page, they track the busses by GPS and know where they are at all times.  They should know that the busses are late, and that they’re not doing anything at all to punish the contractors for consistent non-performance.

This evoked a very simple response from Durham: that they would immediately “separate” the Monster’s route from any other school, removing the route from the bid process and were assigning a driver/aid immediately.

Now… this is where the rubber meets the road.  I have serious questions about how Baltimore City Public Schools handles transportation:

  • Why is no one apparently monitoring the performance of the busses, both city-owned and contracted?  A bus should not be late 19 and 34 minutes respectively on two of the first three days of school, without people noticing and reacting.  If I can do what I did, using Waze and my private car, why isn’t the school system noticing this using their vaunted GPS and AVL technologies?
  • Why aren’t more parents complaining about the busses?  Yesterday, I saw at least six kids get on the Monster’s bus. Today, I only counted four.  Clearly, these other kids are having to be taken to school by their parents – why aren’t they speaking up about the issue?  What about the kids on the other three busses… or on other such late busses around Baltimore?
  • Why hasn’t Baltimore City Public Schools fired the non-performant vendors?  If I had an employee that was consistently late – one that other managers or customers complained about and could point to a consistent pattern of tardiness – I would put that employee on written report, and fire him/her if drastic improvement was not made.  Why doesn’t there seem to be similar conduct with the bus contractors?
  • How much more screaming do I have to do to get my son to school on time?  I’m personally tired of driving over to GHEMS every morning to find out what time the bus arrives.  I’ve warned them that the next time I have cause to write to them regarding serious tardiness of the bus, I will file the paperwork with the state to inform them of an ongoing IEP violation.  (The Monster’s transportation is in his IEP.)

As to that second point – we can’t be the only parents coping with this issue… can we?  Seriously?

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