BEAUFORT, S.C. — The Beaufort County School District has ended its relationship with a private-sector transportation provider and has hired a director of transportation as it takes over supervision of bus operations.
The move was made in an effort to provide pupil transportation service at a lower cost, according to a news release from the school district. Durham School Services’ bid to extend its contract for 2016-17 was $6.5 million, a $900,000 increase over 2015-16’s contract.
The South Carolina Department of Education supplies, maintains, and fuels a statewide school bus fleet, with vehicles allotted to individual districts based on student enrollment. Local school districts hire and supervise bus drivers and design routes.
Three South Carolina school districts – Beaufort, Charleston County, and Dorchester School District 2 – have partially privatized their bus systems and subcontracted driver supervision and bus routes. The decision to bring student transportation in-house means that only one of those districts — Charleston County — will retain its partially privatized system, because Dorchester School District 2 ended its contract with Durham in June 2015.
Beaufort County has operated a partially privatized school bus system for 20 years through contracts with three companies: Laidlaw (1996-2004), First Student (2004-2010), and Durham School Services (2010-present).
The school district plans to lease an undetermined number of buses to supplement those provided by the state, so that there are enough buses available to provide the level of service that parents are requesting, said Superintendent Jeff Moss. Of the 190 buses currently operating in the district, 149 are supplied by the state and 41 are supplied by Durham.
Meanwhile, Kerry Mayo, a former private-sector school bus executive with strong Beaufort County ties, has been tapped to serve as the school district’s director of transportation.
“Kerry has a track record of success in and outside of Beaufort County,” Moss said. “His experience will play a key role in our ability to successfully transition from a privately managed transportation system to a district-run system.”
Mayo had previously managed the district’s school bus operations for First Student, the district’s contractor prior to Durham. He left Beaufort County to work as First Student's contract manager in Savannah, Georgia. He was later was named the company’s Atlantic southeast regional manager. Prior to his career in school bus operations, Mayo worked as the regional safety specialist for FedEx in North Carolina and managed UPS operations for 14 years in Beaufort County.
Mayo said that he welcomed the challenge of managing the district’s transition from a private-sector school bus operation to a district-run system.
"There’s always going to be some uncertainty when an organization undergoes a significant change,” Mayo said. “Our team’s challenge will be to make this transition a smooth one for parents, students, and staff.”
Mayo grew up and was educated in Beaufort County. He attended elementary, middle, and high school in the district and later earned his bachelor’s degree in business from the University of South Carolina Beaufort.
“I’m excited to be back home,” Mayo said. “The professional and personal relationships I’ve built here over the years have been very positive.”