Aduit: School principals find transportation system ‘very satisfactory’
Superintendent James Browder has released an update of the TransPar Group’s audit of the district’s transportation system.
The district entered into a $76,000 contract with the Missouri-based consultant in February. According to the original agreement approved by the school board, the audit was supposed to be concluded on or about April 15, but Browder announced recently it’s not expected to be finished until September.
The update released on Tuesday stated that Lee County’s bus service “is perceived to be very satisfactory per the school principals.” It also added that the cost per bus is 3 percent higher than the state average and that school choice is consistent with other similar programs.
A number of Cape Coral parents have been complaining for the last school year that their children are on a bus up to four hours each day, but the district contends those students didn’t choose a school closer to their home during the student assignment process.
Some of TransPar’s findings did indicate that the district’s transportation system needed improvement.
“Route design guidelines and related transportation policies are inadequate to assure that student ride times are kept to a minimum,” it stated, adding that “the current school bell time structure facilitates long bus ride times; bells are far apart and shorter ride times are not rewarded with reduced costs.”
The update added that school choice is too complex and the district has too many buses on the road.
Superintendent James Browder said he will consider the findings of the final report this fall, and make recommendations to improve the system, but stressed he won’t make any hasty decisions.
“To be quite frank, I am excited about the potential because there is an opportunity to save some dollars,” said Browder. “A knee jerk reaction, because somebody says we got to do it right now, is not what I wanted anyone to think in the beginning.”
Vice Chairman Elinor Scricca believes that the report will be a source of controversy in the upcoming school board election this August. She said it is being used for political reasons and that neither the board nor superintendent is attempting to bury the report.
“We aren’t trying to hide anything here,” said Scricca, who is pursuing her third term as District 5 school board member.
Some district school bus drivers also addressed the board on Tuesday night over concerns that the board was eliminating overtime for drivers. No agenda item was scheduled regarding driver overtime, but Chairman Steve Teuber said the board would only consider eliminating overtime in the future if recommended by the superintendent or audit findings.
And the board members stressed that the transportation audit is not linked to driver performance.
“It (the audit) has nothing to do without drivers and their performance,” said Board Member Jeanne Dozier, who explained the district ordered the audit to see if they can improve the system as a whole.