WALLED LAKE, Mich. — Bus service for Walled Lake Consolidated School District (WLCSD) will be provided by contractor Dean Transportation starting with the upcoming school year.
In a letter to district parents and staff last week, Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Gutman wrote that the district has been in negotiations with the Walled Lake Transportation Association since last August and has conducted 13 sessions.
Gutman said that “good faith bargaining” with the association did not result in an agreement, but every facet of the transportation budget was “thoroughly researched,” and the district’s administration recommended Dean Transportation to provide transportation services beginning with the 2013-14 school year.
The district’s board of education voted 7-0 to accept the recommendation and to begin the transition process.
Gutman also wrote that Dean Transportation “has an excellent safety record, will offer jobs to our drivers, and will compensate our drivers at a competitive rate.”
In a Q&A document with information about the school bus contractor, the district wrote that Dean Transportation has a comparable school bus inspection record to that of WLCSD, and the company was selected to provide school bus service after a rigorous interview process, reference checks with other districts, and after interviewing the owner.
“State law requires the district to submit a balanced budget by June 30,” Gutman added in the letter. “We are currently working to finalize decisions regarding our 2013-14 budget, with expected reductions to be an estimated $10 million."
The district will save more than $4.2 million over the three years of the contract with Dean Transportation — $1.428 million annually.
“We are doing everything we can to make decisions that keep cuts as far from the classroom as possible, balance the budget, and continue to offer a quality educational experience for our students and families,” Gutman said.
Following news of the district’s decision to privatize transportation services, The Oakland Press reported this week that district administrators were forced to close the entire school system on Wednesday when just under 25% of its bus drivers called in sick.
Judy Evola, spokeswoman for WLCSD, told the newspaper that the schools were closed because the district didn’t have “an advanced plan communicated to parents about driving.”
Evola also noted that it was not confirmed that the drivers called in sick in protest to the transportation changes underway, but she said that Gutman, along with the assistant superintendent for labor relations, will be communicating with the drivers.