Superintendent of the Pine Bush Central School District, Tim Mains, gave an update regarding the ongoing busing issues at the Board of Education meeting last Tuesday night.
A few weeks ago, Mains and Michael Pacella, Assistant Superintendent for Business at Pine Bush Schools, met with two senior leaders of the Birnie Bus Service, Inc. Mains and Pacella also interviewed all the major players, to determine what they could do differently to avoid busing issues in the future. They determined that there were three factors that led to the busing problems: poor communication, planning and time.
Mains noted that time and time again, communication was very brief and often times the district was not on the same page with the bus company. He added that the district should have had a plan committed to paper and that regular meetings should have been held. Time itself was also an issue, as it would have been possible to improve the busing issues in 6-8 months if deadlines had been met along the way. The most critical piece was transforming the bus routes to Transfinder, a website that tracks school bus routes. The board hoped to receive the new routes in June but did not receive them until July 11. Some tests in the field did not occur until August. They did not have access to driver feedback, which was critical to resolving any concerns with the routes in advance.
Due to these problems, a partnership was formed between Birnie Bus Inc. and the Pine Bush Central School District. The two parties have been working together to resolve the busing issues and prevent them from occurring again. A joint team of additional staff that was brought in from Pennsylvania and upstate New York joined the team that was working with the Pine Bush School District’s Transportation Director Kurt Wickham to redraft routes and review all of the concerns with the busing. During that review, they made sure that they had input from parents and bus drivers. Mains noted that there are about 10-12 appeals left to be considered. The Board of Education is working on a rubric that will be used to evaluate bus stops. A separate rubric will evaluate the bus routes.
Moving forward, regular meetings between the staff of Birnie Bus Inc. and Wickham will take place. The senior leadership of the district and Birnie will attend the initial meetings until the district feels that the team is working properly. Vice President of the Board of Education for the Pine Bush School District, Cara Robertson, will also attend those meetings to make sure everything gets off to a good start. Mains thanked all of the parents for their patience during this difficult time.
“Neither Birnie nor the district believes that parents should be in a position where they need to worry about their kids getting to or from school safely,” Mains said. “We are committed to making sure that we continue the tradition of having a safe transportation system for our very large district.”