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Busing Problems Accompany First Week of School at Plymouth-Canton

Parent reports missed routes, late pick-ups and drop-offs in first seven days of school.

The start to the school year at schools has been bumpy for parents of students who take the bus to school.

The Plymouth-Canton Board of Education discussed at its Tuesday meeting a series of problems with contracted bus drivers from Michigan Educational Transportation Services (METS) in the first week of the school year.

The problems were brought to the board by parent Melissa Uhl, who reported missed pickups on the first two days of school, a kindergarten student being dropped off at the wrong bus stop, late pick-ups and drop-offs and a rotating door of substitute bus drivers in the first seven days of the school year.

Uhl said because of the missed routes and late pick-ups, she has driven her children to school on four of the first seven days.

Phil Freeman, assistant superintendent of facilities and operations, said the district has struggled with keeping a full stable of bus drivers because of more competitive wages and benefits elsewhere.

“As the economy gets better, opportunities for drivers begin opening up,” he said. Freeman noted the district saw about a 25 percent turnover in drivers from last year.

“We’re paying a wage that’s lower than it should be,” Freeman said.

The specific driver assigned to the Uhls’ route, however, has been on medical leave, prompting a series of substitute drivers to fill in his route.

“We’re getting people on the road later than we’d like to without the practice we’d like to have,” Freeman said.

Board member Mark Horvath said whatever the cause may be for the busing issues, he wants to ensure it never happens again.

“Busing is a huge part of what we do, a huge part of our competitive edge,” Horvath said. “I don’t want to hear (that) this is a part of doing business.”

Freeman said the problem isn’t exclusive to Plymouth-Canton — he said similar situations have been common throughout Wayne County and in Washtenaw County.

Plymouth-Canton after switching from its in-house busing service to third-party busing to save money. Parents of special education students expressed concern at the time about the new bus drivers’ accommodations for their students.

Freeman said the district is working with METS to resolve the complaints.

Board President John Barrett called for a report on the cause and corrective action plan for the administration to deliver to the board for its next meeting.

Mary Ann MacLaren September 12, 2012 at 12:40 PM
So, is this a result of outsourcing bus drivers? This would not happen with loyal, long time employees of the district.
Emily September 12, 2012 at 01:08 PM
My mom used to tell me that she didn't care what my friends did, what I did was what mattered. The fact that other districts are dealing with similar issues has NO impact on me or on my children whatsoever. What does impact me is the high school bus not coming into our sub AT ALL the first two days, my kids riding a bus for an hour for a three mile trip, my kids arriving late to school EVERY day for the first week, and my son standing in the pouring rain for 20-25 minutes at the middle school along with all of the other students waiting for the bus to get them after school. This is absolutely unacceptable. And when a neighbor called to complain, she was told (after someone FINALLY answered) that if she was so concerned, she should drive her kid herself. But hey, at least we are saving a few dollars...
Fred S September 12, 2012 at 02:00 PM
The record of switching from an outstanding in-house busing service to third-party busing was a matter of record. The board decided to "bite the bullet" and sacrifice the students safety and established "students first" bussing motto for monetary savings. From what I understanding is happening, the schedule is sadly lacking (lack of trained people, drivers and aids). A poor hiring policy (which is hindered by poor pay and benefits) and a lack of school personnel involved in the actual hiring. The previous union caused a large part of the problem by demanding more than was necessary, a lack of true cooperation for the benefit of the students and over protecting drivers for the benefit of the union itself. Both the board of education and the union sacrificed the students for their own gain. It is a discrace which needs to be corrected for the school district and more importantly for the students.
JLG September 12, 2012 at 03:25 PM
I have personally witnessed busses running through yellow traffic lights, speeding through subdivisions, hitting curbs when making turns and it is frightening. My daughter has had two different drivers in the past two weeks. Along with different drivers comes different pick-up times. We make sure she is waiting at least 5 minutes earlier than what she is told. This privatized bussing is certainly NOT worth the extra money we our District is spending to "save" a few dollars. The Board of Education should be held accountable for their decision to privatize. Because if “Busing is a huge part of what we do, a huge part of our competitive edge,” Mr. Horvath - we are certainly MISSING THE BUS!!!!!!
Darken September 12, 2012 at 04:36 PM
I said this would happen almost two years ago, when this idea was decided upon. Go back and read the older articles! This is why my child is no longer in the system for a privatized company to abuse. However, I did find out that her driver is still a driver, and if he has the same route, I'm sure he's doing his best, I will not say the same for other drivers, as I have seen many unfamiliar faces when I drive past the bus yard.
Jeffery Maloney September 12, 2012 at 05:55 PM
I was having lunch with a friend last thursday 9/6/2012 at Arby's on ann arbor rd. and we sat on the east side of the restaurant (drive thru side) and i look out the big window and what do i see, a PLYMOUTH/CANTON SCHOOL BUS DRIVING THRU THE DRIVE THRU, i was shocked, i have never seen an actual school bus driver go thru a drive thru before, and i will second what "JLG" posted, The Board of Education should be held accountable for their decision to privatize. Because if “Busing is a huge part of what we do, a huge part of our competitive edge,” Mr. Horvath - we are certainly MISSING THE BUS!!!!!! PRIVATIZATION DOES NOT WORK, just imagine if this board would have PRIVATIZED the custodial department, what a scary thought, yes they were very close to doing so for the 2012/2013 school year, but the safe and reliable custodial staff had to give up a lot of security and comfort in there contract to keep there jobs, so sad it has come to this, hopefully with the economy on the rise the district will bring back full time bus drivers and give all it's hard working employees fair and decent contracts to keep everybody happy and safe.
Harry J September 12, 2012 at 06:25 PM
More and more we will see this type of thing happen. Not just in bussing but in custodial services, maintenance and yes even in the classrooms as long as the State continues passing laws which require privatizing and substandard wages in the name of "improving education in Michigan schools". More is to come and education in P/C and the entire state WILL suffer. Remember this at the polls.
Angela Nolan September 12, 2012 at 06:28 PM
I waited patiently for the transportation card to come in the mail for my daughter who was starting at Central as a 6th grader. She has never ridden the bus before now. It said her pick up was at 5 Mile and Bradner. It didn't say which corner. The first day of school I walked her to the bus stop and it was ACROSS 5 Mile. There is NO WAY I am letting an eleven year old walk across a very busy intersection at 7:30 in the morning - not with the way Michigan drivers are anyway. Then, when they told us to switch buses, it would have to be a MUCH earlier bus and on a street with no sidewalks. Why would she have to be on a bus for almost an hour to go a couple of miles?? Driving kids to school is an option for me, but what about all the other disgruntled working parents out there?? Last gripe, I promise: Now I take her (40 minutes with congestion round trip) to Canton High School for orchestra because we were told to put her on the high school bus at 6:30am. NO WAY DOES MY DAUGHTER NEED AN EDUCATION LIKE THAT.
Emily September 12, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Angela, I agree with what you are saying but as far as orchestra goes, did you not know that those kids ride the HS bus to go to the zero hour before you signed her up? They start at 7, so I am a little perplexed as to why the 6:30 bus upsets you. The orchestra is a fabulous option, even with it beginning earlier in the day.
Mike September 12, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Education is the mission of PCS, but students' health and safety MUST be the priority. The current situation is flat unacceptable and downright negligent. Sure the schools saved a few bucks with the new bussing system, but those savings will be gone 100fold with lawsuits once a kid goes missing after he was left at the wrong stop or someone gets injured or killed by a speeding bus trying to catch up on a late route.
Dawn September 12, 2012 at 11:11 PM
They also need to explain why the High School security that are suppose to be protecting our kids are sitting in their vehicles in strip mall parking lots!
Dawn September 12, 2012 at 11:12 PM
And my 7th grader at Central had to wait 40 minutes for her bus the first day!
Deborah Matthews September 12, 2012 at 11:22 PM
The schools are not saving any money from privatizing...I was a driver before they outsourced....most of the drivers lived in or around the area..knew the students and their families..and cared...now you are all seeing what is happening..there is no savings..not enough drivers..people who do not have the experience behind them, and most of the new hires do not even know the main roads on which they travel...Too bad the people who voted to outsource..had no clue to what they were doing..,maybe the school board should get their CDLs and have to drive until they find enough drivers to fill the positions...You can not put a price on the childrens safety...Too bad that is exactly what has happened...as for the bus in the arbys drive thru..we were not allowed to go off route..I see alot has changed....
Robin Moore September 13, 2012 at 01:35 AM
I agree with Deborah Matthews, considering she is somebody I used to work with. We were never and are never allowed to even think about going to a restuarant like that, because if we did, we would be held accountable for the damage, and would be fired on the spot. A lot of parents don't realize, that this district, the board office people don't give two hoots and a holler about the kids in this district. That's why they are throwing privatizing everything in people's faces. They want to privatize transportation, they want to privatize custodial, they want to privatize teachers, cafertaria workers, crossing guards. You get the point. As long as they get that green stuff going into their pockets, that is quite alright to privatize everybody. And guess what, after they privatize everybody that is in the school system, it all comes down to them getting a pat on the back, and people saying board office people, you did such a fine job at dealing with the school system. You want to know what I have to say about that? I don't think half of you people would even like my comments, because nothing I have to say about the board office is very nice. Actually, you'll probably think that I am a very hateful person. I'm not, but the board office, has just pushed that agravation button on me, that says enough is enough. Let's start worrying about our children for once, instead of worrying about how much money is going in your pockets.
Robin Moore September 13, 2012 at 02:20 AM
Oh and about the union as far as I am concerned we have no union. All they care about is getting their union dues. That's why they got us a contract. Not because they really care about us. Because they don't. They were so unprofessional about the way they dealt with our contract this year. And yea they got us two paid holidays back, thanksgiving and memorial day. But here's the catch. It would take a bus aid even somebody like me whose been in this district since 2000 up until 2019 to get those two holiday pays. That's if they don't up it in the year 2016. Gees what a union.
Bridgette September 13, 2012 at 03:28 AM
The sad part is you're right and when everyone else figures out privitizing everything was a bad idea it will be to late and it will take years to rebuild whet we had and foolishly tossed away to save a few dollars
Nancy Drabicki September 13, 2012 at 11:51 PM
well, all i have to say is," what is happening right now in the plymouth/canton transportation dept. was what i expected". first and foremost the dept. was barely operating successfully before privatization. we had route sheets that were not accurate, management was somewhat adequate, and the turnover ratio for new employee's was too high. the senior drivers were driven to stay because wage and benefits were good. now the incentive to stay has been removed because wage and insurance benefits were taken away. many people like myself left to stay connected to the state retirement system. what i think is a quick fix would be a very invasive stand on correcting route sheets. possibly have the supertindent call lansing to amend the 1040sb (?) give the transportation drivers in the state of michigan more recognition than they have received in the past. the general public think we just get in a bus and drive. that is so far from the truth. we need every district to call lansing and tell them this is a serious issue involving the safety and good welfare of students. and for the custodians remaining as state employees. it is far more easy to empty a waste basket than it is to drive a bus. shame on plymouth canton board of education. just think we are a highly educated staff. i am thankful i work for walled lake schools because they definitely think they way i do now. hopefully, they do thier homework first before making such a stupid decision.
concerned September 15, 2012 at 05:32 PM
As a returning Plymouth-Canton busdriver with more than ten years experience I feel the need to comment about JLG's comments. As far as running yellow traffic lights, hitting curbs, and speeding thru subdivisions have you ever drove a schoolbus with up to 84 passengers? Didn't think so! It is far easier to stop your personal vehicle I can assure you. As far as speeding thru subdivisions not likely it just sounds that way if you aren't familiar with busses which you probably aren't. We do have to curb at times because cars are a whole car length over the line or parked where they shouldn't be and cutting us off to only get in front of us to then stop. I'm sure I can speak for the busdrivers that were here prior to privatizing when I say "we told you(the Board members) you would not get the same professionalism you had with us." Yes, we do consider ourselves professionals and we did and still do, contrary to what you say, put our kids first! Maybe the board members should have taken more time to decide such an important decision.

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