efficiencies on to the district,” said Patrick S. Dean, director of business development at Dean Transportation. “Te relationships with each school district administration, school official and the community are vital to a lasting partnership.”

TAKING ANOTHER ROAD But there are some situations where


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contract services just don’t add up, and a school district will take another course. Such was the case at Rockwood School District in Missouri. After conducting an RFP, the district found the lowest bid for transportation services to be significantly higher than the how much it was currently spending in-house. “If we were to continue with outsourc-

ing, our budget would have been signifi- cantly impacted in the coming years. As good stewards of public funds, we needed to look at other options,” said Rockwood Superintendent Dr. Eric Knost. As a result, the board of education

approved a district-owned transportation system last February to serve more than 21,000 students in 31 school locations within a 150-square-mile service area. Te district stretched out its investment in its fleet of 175 new buses (equipped with camera systems, radios and GPS) via a 10- year financing plan for lease-to-own with their dealer. “We would pay for buses either way.

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With contracted services we pay to borrow the buses. With an in-house operation, we pay to own the buses. Tis is actually a savings in our budget compared to con- tracted services,” said Knost. Te district’s next step is to hire a trans-

portation director and bus drivers, who will undergo training over the summer. “By the end of this school year, we will be in a better position for the new school year,” said Bill Sloan, director of transpor- tation and purchasing at Rockwood.


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corporations, transportation providers must run a tight ship -- from safety to operations to cost efficiencies -- in order to turn a profit. “We have enormous economies of scale for buying buses, for maintenance parts and

for drivers, which typically allows us to save a district 10 to 20 percent, while also pro- viding the basis for a solid return,” according to Todd Steele, vice president of business development and growth at First Student. First Student’s entire school bus fleet is equipped with technology that allows it to actively manage many aspects of its opera- tion. An information system called FOCUS helps drive down expenses through continu- ous bus monitoring and preventative main- tenance. Fuel expenses also can be managed by a school district or the contractor via hedging on the cost of fuel for a substantial amount of annual energy usage. Whether reinforcing a long-term

relationship or establishing a new one, transportation providers rely on open communication to seal the deal. “Our focus on community relationships

has alleviated any concerns a district and parents may have about our safety process- es and protocols,” said Steele. “We create a public event and invite the community to tour our buses, meet our drivers and ask questions.” Durham School Services, which will

mark a century in business next year, works closely with school administrators and districts through open lines of com- munication. During the RFP process, the company asks that the potential customer be as open and honest about its current situa- tion and expectations. Once in a contract, the company surveys its customers twice a year to maintain understanding and meet needs. Results of the last survey indicate that 92 percent of its customers would recommend its services. Te company launched the Durham

Bus Tracker app last year, which is pro- vided at no charge to customers, allowing parents and guardians to view their chil- dren’s bus location and scheduled arrival. Te app can be accessed from a home computer, IPhone or android device. “We strive for excellence to create a part- nership with our school districts. We focus on safety and insure customer satisfaction through open and ongoing dialogue with our operations team and the customer,” said Bob Ramsdell, Durham School Services senior vice president and chief operating officer for the Central Region. 

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