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October 29, 2012  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Co-ops yield cost savings, boost efficiency for districts

Officials from transportation cooperatives around the country also say that they can lead to consistency in employee training and hiring, and managing and scheduling bus routes for districts. Officials discuss factors to consider when forming a cooperative, as well as potential challenges and ways to resolve them.

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Drivers for the Pupil Transportation Cooperative in Whittier, Calif., are employed by the cooperative. Officials say a factor to consider when forming a cooperative is whether employees will be hired from the outside or hired from member districts’ transportation departments.
<p>Drivers for the Pupil Transportation Cooperative in Whittier, Calif., are employed by the cooperative. Officials say a factor to consider when forming a cooperative is whether employees will be hired from the outside or hired from member districts’ transportation departments.</p>
Benefits beyond cost savings
Ferrington and others note that there are benefits to joining a transportation cooperative beyond cost savings.

The cooperative can take on tasks that may have previously been handled by a superintendent or another non-transportation staff member, which can increase efficiency.       

“We are willing to assume a district’s valuable time by researching school code and statutes for assistance in providing positive results,” Ferrington says.   

In addition, Ibarra points to consistency among member districts in training and hiring, as well as in managing bus routing and scheduling.  

Points to remember when forming a cooperative
A lot of work goes into forming a cooperative. Here are components to keep in mind:  

You must have a strong leader. Because there is so much involved in operating a cooperative, Rea says it’s important that the top official is someone “who understands transportation and can operate a separate government agency.”

There must be communication, commitment and cooperation among member districts. All officials agree that member districts must also work toward the same goal for the cooperative to be successful.   

Consider the needs of all member districts. At Centralia/Chehalis Pupil Transportation Cooperative, Centralia School District is larger than Chehalis School District. Pinn says that even though Chehalis is the smaller district, there has to be a balance in terms of sharing resources and making the cooperative staff available to both districts.

Proximity of member districts to cooperative’s facility. Ibarra says it’s important that the cooperative’s facility is in close proximity to its member districts, and that the facility is big enough to accommodate the districts’ maintenance needs. The farther the cooperative’s facility is from its member districts, he says, the more it will drive up costs.

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