SALEM, Ore. — Enhanced inter-department communication, a stronger collective feeling that everyone is working toward student achievement, and increased efficiency, particularly within the transportation department, are just a few of the benefits Salem-Keizer Public Schools officials have seen as a result of modeling their district after the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) 9001 quality management system.
It has taken the transportation department about three years to implement all of the system's elements at its operation.
The first steps were strategic planning and training. Transportation Director Michael Shields said he and his staff were asked by the superintendent what issues they wanted to address and improve. The department was then required to develop a mission statement.
"Your job in the training is to ensure that everyone understands what the mission is and you explain that this is a process," Shields said. "It takes courage to say, 'We have an area that we're not shining in - how can we polish it?'"
The transportation department also had to develop benchmarks and performance standards and draft an action plan for achieving the benchmarks and standards. In developing the performance standards, the staff created a baseline and established goals.
Shields asked each sector of his department to select two areas of achievement and generate goals for those areas. Each area of achievement was then tracked and measured for progress. Progress is charted on graphs that are posted throughout the department for everyone to review.
The transportation department's areas of achievement include preventable accidents, vehicle inspection, equipment calibration, the percentage of field trips requested and completed, the number of drivers successfully trained, and driver retention.
"Many of these were chosen because they are areas that can cause potential friction with other district departments," said David Farley, head mechanic for Salem-Keizer Public Schools.
In regard to field trips, for instance, Shields revealed that the schools' expectations for service exceeded the transportation department's resources and ability to fulfill all of the requests.
To remedy this problem, the staff established a preventive action that would enable them to provide better service in the future: There is now a field trip transportation request procedure posted on the district's Website.
Each time any sector within the transportation department drafts a procedure for approaching a task, it must be sent to a Management Review Team (MRT), which determines if there is room for improvements. From there, the procedure is sent to an executive cabinet for adoption and is then posted as an official district procedure.
(The MRT comprises mid-level to first-line supervisors. Michael Burton, fleet manager, is one MRT member.)
Moreover, an Audit Review Team consisting of employees from throughout the district visits all of the departments and assesses their progress and compliance with their processes and procedures. Farley is a member of the Audit Review Team.
The departments are also subjected to internal (or peer) and external audits. Shields said transportation has had one peer audit so far. Employees from three different school districts came in to analyze the department's progress. The external audits entail having professional auditors who are familiar with the ISO process evaluate each department's progress.
There are additional ways that the transportation department measures its successes and tracks its progress. Shields said the staff must complete surveys to gauge the feedback they receive. The department has also created the Political Action Council for Transportation.
"The idea is to discuss how things are going," Shields said. "We also have three guideline development teams that identify problematic issues and generate work instructions and processes that will help to solve the problems."
Shields emphasized that the ISO program is a customer-focused one because the department is striving to improve its processes to better serve its customers. The added benefit is that this, in turn, enables employees to do their jobs better.
"All of the employees have an opportunity to make changes in the processes," Burton added. "Everyone has an avenue to voice suggestions."