Groveport Madison changes bus service provider

By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport Editor

Groveport Madison Schools will have a new transportation provider for students next year.

At its May 25 meeting, the Groveport Madison Board of Education voted to terminate its bus contract with Petermann Transportation and then approved the contract with Community Bus Service to be the new bus provider.

The contract with Petermann was terminated as of May 30. Petermann will cease operations in the district on May 31.

The district’s contract with Community Bus Service begins July 1, 2022 and expires June 30, 2025. Groveport Madison will pay Community Bus Service $6.34 million for annual home-to-school service provided for the first year of the contract (including the cost of fuel up to predetermined thresholds). Additional expenses will also be incurred to manage field trips and activities and other travel outside of the normal daily bus services and provide attendants (bus helpers) for special education routes).

“The company will begin recruiting efforts immediately,” said Jeff Warner, director of communications for Groveport Madison. “The drivers’ starting salary will be $27 an hour. Health insurance, including major medical, dental and vision plans, will be available, as will a retirement program and company-paid life insurance.

Asked about the status of current bus drivers, Warner said, “Petermann Transportation employs all current bus drivers and assistants, not Groveport Madison Schools. The Community Bus Service will immediately begin recruiting bus drivers and helpers. Many Petermann bus drivers may wish to remain drivers on Groveport Madison routes. CBS strongly encourages these individuals to apply for open positions within their company. »

Bus drivers question the action
The change in bus transportation providers at Groveport Madison schools has raised concerns among bus drivers and instructors.

Several bus drivers and instructors spoke at the Groveport Madison Board of Education’s May 11 meeting about the district’s plans to change bus companies. They said they felt like they were “in limbo” and were experiencing stress and anxiety due to the unknowns of changing bus companies. Some of the concerns they mentioned include the status of their: wages, job security, life insurance, personal time off, health insurance, vacation pay, snow days, union representation, seniority, safety, lack of communication between district officials and bus drivers, what the proposed new bus company would offer them, and whether the drivers will be hired by the proposed new transportation provider.

Shirley Wightsel, a bus driver of 41 years, said, “We are all members of Teamsters Local 284 and have negotiated a contract with Petermann Transportation. We hope that the community bus service will recognize our local to ensure an ongoing working relationship. Drivers and instructors care about our work. We care about our children. We transport valuable goods every day.

Frances Braswell, a trainer, expressed concern about the lack of communication from district officials about the proposed change in bus service.

“We were told that you would come and talk to us. That we are part of the team. Well, we definitely don’t feel like part of the team,” Braswell said.

Regarding the proposed change of bus service from Petermann Transportation to community bus service, Braswell added, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.

The neighborhood response
Warner said the board and district administration believe that providing reliable, on-time school bus service and real-time communications with the school district and building-level management are non-negotiable performance measures that must be respected.

“Once full-time classes resumed this school year, the district experienced repeated significant issues with student transportation, including unscheduled route cancellations, missed or excessively late student pickups/returns, unacceptable follow-up regarding parent and administrator concerns, and poor communication regarding bus accidents and other operational issues,” Warner said. “Throughout the school year, the district has worked diligently to help Petermann fulfill his obligations. Over time, it became more apparent that Petermann was struggling with issues other than just staffing its bus routes. There were organizational inefficiencies in the way routes were planned and insufficient office staff to respond to parent and district concerns.

Warner said that, to help temporarily, the district brought in two former school district operations directors to assess the operation and offer recommendations for improvement.

He said most of the recommendations were never implemented by Petermann.

“With cancellations and delays continuing through December, it has been agreed that the district will take the unprecedented step of moving our preschool and 6-12 grade students to a remote online learning model during the week before winter break,” Warner said. “This was done to give Petermann more time to combine and reassign bus routes, complete training and onboarding of new drivers, and meet other operational needs. Even with this extra time, the district continued to experience widespread cancellations of bus routes and delays getting students to and from school each day.

He said that in the absence of real solutions from Petermann Transportation, “the district has determined that it is necessary to pursue legal remedies and seek proposals for transportation services from other providers.”

In a response in early May, Edward Flavin, vice president of external communications for Petermann, said, “We have had the opportunity to serve the schools of Groveport Madison for over a decade and appreciate our partnership in serving this community. . It is our policy not to comment further at this time, except to say that we look forward to continuing to serve students in the Groveport Madison community.

Melvin Z. Madore