School Board President: "Let's Talk About Buses"
Let's Talk About School Buses
- Susan Greenfield Murphy
As I continue to work on understanding my role as the president of the school board and the many operational pieces of the district that go into our management structure, I had the opportunity to visit our bus garage recently during a state inspection. Now, I hear you; this is hardly an exciting topic of conversation! I would usually agree. But I have to say, I was blown away by what our bus mechanic, Bruce Freeman, has to do with each bus to get it to pass inspection! Right at the first handshake from Bruce, he said, “Those are MY kids on the buses, and I want them to be safe.” I appreciate and respect the ownership and pride Bruce takes in making sure EVERY child is safe, and he is willing to go the “extra mile” to make sure that happens.
Next, the state inspector took time to explain to me and my board colleague, Curt Coville, what he looks for, why he's looking for it, and what the program does for us in general. I'm not sure my own vehicle would pass inspection with him! The bottom line is that this process better ensures that our kids and drivers are safe when they're riding our school buses. The inspector also complemented the district on moving to the bus replacement plan that we did two years ago. He said he only wished more districts would move in this direction!
Bus Replacement Plan
Many of you may remember that two years ago we started a five-year bus replacement plan. During each of the five years we would ask the community to support replacement of four of our buses. After five years, this would give us 20 buses, none of which is older than five years. Once this plan is in place, we will have reduced the total number of buses from 24 to 20 and each year we would then trade-in four buses for a guaranteed buy back amount of over $35,000. By keeping newer buses, we can also more easily maintain them with less staff and also improve our state inspection passing rate. Our drivers, our mechanic, and our administration are already seeing the benefits of this plan!
The board has heard from many parents and residents stating that it seems like a lot of our buses are half empty as they're traveling down the road? So why are we doing all this? Why have the expenses? With so many parents drop off their kids at school, etc., why have buses? I understand, and if I wasn’t in the know, I would think the exact same thing. Due to the distances that we have to travel and because we want to make sure that our kids are not on the bus too long, this is probably going to continue to be true. But we are going to try something different this year. The district has purchased a computer software system that has shown to help other districts arrange their bus runs more efficiently which could save us even more money. We are excited to see what will come of this and I will talk about this later in the year. For me, and I am sure with all parents, you only have one chance to get safety right the first time. If for any reason there is an emergency, and we need to get our kids out of an unsafe situation, I am sure all will agree that having a seat for every student is very important.
Our buses are not only used to pick up kids for school, but for sport events, field trips, community use ie: Community Band use in the summer. Buses have changed a lot since I rode one to school in the late 60’s, early 70’s, much for the better. All in all, I have a whole new respect for what has to be done to maintain our buses and I thank the community for your support of our new replacement plan.
As always, the board members are eager to hear from our community and can be contacted via email at BOE@skanschools.org if you have any questions or comments.
Susan Greenfield Murphy
President, Skaneateles Board of Education