Wednesday, April 8, 2009

4 to 3 Vote Passes Privatization of RCPS School Buses

RCPS School Board

RCPS School Board

After the vote and during a break school board member, Suzanne Moore shared her reason for voting “no.” The VRS (Virginia Retirement System – Pension) conversion to a 401K plan that had up to a 3% company match was here concern. Bond yields are way down and stocks are in the tank. In addition Moore objected to the increase in added health contributions with the private company saying “I realize a pay increase is a great thing but if you have a family” it would be a real hardship. Lori Vaught school board member said she was evenly divided but “went with her heart” with her “no” vote. On a vote of 4-3 with Mae Huff, Lori Vaught, and Suzanne Moore dissenting privatization of Roanoke City’s Bus Transportation system passed. There was an amendment that will be taken up separately that will create an “exit strategy” fund to be used to repatriate the system back to the schools should things not pan out. School Board Chairman, David Carson said that the City Manager, Darlene Burcham, was contacted and had no objection to the fund. About $250,000 of the savings from privatization will be contributed to this untouchable fund each year. It passed unanimously.

Following the vote Odessa Hill, a bus driver since 1993 waited outside the Governor’s School at Patrick Henry High School. Hill stood with at least 10 other drivers debating on whether to show up for work the following morning.  Hill said “we get no paid holidays, no sick days, no vacation days.” They will be paid $20 for each accumulated sick day they have now. This has led many drivers to use their sick days as they considered $20 not worth as much as a paid day off.

Tuesday evening a barrage of questions were posed by school board members to Curt Baker, Operations Director for RCPS and Mr. Krapf of Krapf bus company. Krapf out of Pennsylvania was chosen from responses to a Request For Proposal to operate the Roanoke City Schools Transportation System. Under the agreement Krapf will buy 15 new school buses each year. After a five-year period should the schools system exercise an exit strategy, “the total cost to bring all of this back in is going to be about $6.3 million,” said Baker. He said by placing $250,000 into a fund that in 5 years they could save about $1.45 million and this amount could be used to buy back some of the buses and enter into a leasing arrangement for the rest.

David Carson, School Board Chairman, at the end of all the questions by school board members summed up the agreement with Krapf:

There is no money for new buses – the average age of buses is 14 years – have experienced difficulty in hiring drivers – experiencing 20-30 absent drivers a day – Karpf will offer employment to all of the current drivers – all will receive a 10% hourly increase – and a benefits decrease to 70% vs a higher percent they have now – all buses would be equipped with two-way radios – equipped with video cameras and GPS equipment by 2009 – 15 new buses a year – by 2011 the average bus age will be no greater than 9 years old – right to object to any driver employed.

Prior to questioning of School Board members there was a public hearing. Kelly Miller, REA Co-President was opposed to all three attendance zone options and instead called for a task force to tackle the issue. The vote on the attendance zone options was postponed until Friday at 10:00 AM. Fishburn Park Elementary school is underutilized in option three and this needs to be rectified prior to the vote.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Education, Roanoke City Public Schools

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