Dayton Public Schools is making several improvements to their transportation department in hopes of improving busing, including hiring a transportation director, adding a bonus incentive for drivers based on attendance and building a new transportation hub by the end of the year.
DPS has hired Craig Anderson as associate director of transportation, at a starting prorated salary of $121,383.44. He started on Jan. 16. The previous person in the position left in August.
DPS is also planning to build a new transportation hub, said David Lawrence, the district’s business manager, and the board of education voted Tuesday night to allow him to move forward to request estimates on the project. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
Lawrence said the district has the money to rebuild the transportation hub already, something that the bus driver union for Dayton Public has advocated for. The lack of bathrooms has been an ongoing issue.
Lawrence noted many of the DPS bus drivers are women, particularly Black single mothers and grandmothers, and some don’t go home between their routes, which can take three and a half hours.
“We want to make this a world class facility for the people who begin the day driving our kids,” Lawrence said.
The board also approved weekly bonuses, worth the equivalent of one hour, for bus drivers who have perfect attendance – meaning those drivers arrive on time to both their morning and afternoon routes and work the full day. The bonuses are an effort to improve attendance.
At least one board member, though, expressed concerns about the current state of busing at DPS.
“I have received many phone calls from parents at seven o’clock at night, 6:45, wondering where their kids are. And I would like to say that no one on this board should be able to be home and enjoy their meal if kids are going to school when it’s night and go home when it’s dark,” said Gabriella Pickett, a DPS board member.
Pickett said between 10 and 15 daily bus routes are often not covered, calling it “unacceptable.”
DPS has had ongoing issues busing students to school, both their own students and the students they are legally required to bus to charter and private schools around the region. The problems have worsened this year, due in part to shortages of bus drivers, resulting in Dayton Public Schools being cited by the state for not busing students to private and charter schools in the region.
The finding could affect the districts’ state refund for transportation, a complicated calculation that changed last year.
Lawrence said the fine could be up to $750,000, which could severely affect the districts’ ability to pay for drivers and paraprofessionals, two areas where the district is already struggling to attract people to work. The most common issues DPS cited in the ODE documents for why they couldn’t get students to school was the driver shortage and the many different bell schedules at each school.
The school district is suing the Ohio Department of Education in Franklin County civil court over the ruling, saying ODE never took the necessary steps to create the rules it is now fining DPS for.
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