By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education will explore and discus new options for its current bus system.
During the Aug. 24 meeting, board members awarded a one-year, $750,000 extension to Trinity Transportation based on no increase on unit pricing.
“We’re going to be forming a committee involving instruction and transportation,” Supt. Glenn Maleyko said. “We will study how our money is being spent, our efficiency and involve a representative from the community to look at the things we’ve done.”
Trustee Mary Petlichkoff asked the board to look into the ideas of neighboring districts regarding transportation.
“When this committee forms, I hope that we take into consideration what the other neighboring communities are also doing and struggling with and whether there is some kind of sharing that we could potentially consider,” she said.
Trinity was the only company to make a bid for the upcoming school year.
“I’ve had concerns about this for some time,” Trustee Roxanne McDonald said. “My concerns are the large sum of money we’re paying, initial value going up with added runs and having only one bidder.”
A big issue discussed by the board member was the recruitment of bus drivers for the district.
“I do know that there is a shortage not only at a local but state level,” Maleyko said. “We have made some efforts to try to aggressively recruit but is has been challenging.”
Currently, the district has only six full-time bus drivers with the remaining working part time.
“Our transportation department works hard and they do a great job, but how can we look at things so maybe we can accommodate and get more full time bus drivers hired if possible,” Maleyko said.
Bus drivers have to obtain multiple licenses, pass four Department of Transportation tests, complete safety training, have a high school diploma and pass drug and alcohol screenings.
“The problem with hiring people split shift is that its not attractive,” Trustee Mary Lane said. “If we could combine the work with another district’s run or with something else, people really are creative with the stuff they come up with.”
During the meeting Maleyko stressed thinking outside the box for new options.
“Looking at the number of buses we have currently, and can we accommodate if we take more buses within our school district, efficiency and out of the box thinking are important,” he said.
The board agreed that the current bus drivers and transportation department are currently doing a “great job.”
“Our staff takes care of our kids the way we want them too, and if they don’t, we can act on that,” Lane said. “I’m in favor of that. If the bus drivers are on a regular route they recognize the kids and know how to interact with the kids.”
“A majority of them are from our neighborhoods and know our students and they care about the students,” she said. “That’s just something that can’t be measured.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)