Denair Board Moves to Hire Private Bus Services

DUSD School Bus

Submitted by Denair Unified School District

A shortage of qualified bus drivers and mechanics prompted the Denair Unified School District board to unanimously pass an emergency declaration Thursday night to immediately seek bids from a private company to provide the service.

About 120 of Denair’s 1,300 elementary through high school students ride the bus daily, district officials said. Despite repeated recruitment efforts, Denair has been unable to find two qualified applicants to work the daily four-hour bus driver shifts. Drivers were paid between $13.50 and $16 per hour, depending upon experience.

Instead, other district employees qualified to drive a bus – a custodian, a utility worker and a transportation supervisor – have had to take time away from their other duties. In some cases, they also have had to work overtime.

When its own fill-in employees have been unavailable, Denair has had to contract with the Hughson Unified School District to provide bus services.

“We are little one absence away from the buses collapsing. If one of these employees is out, we would be in an untenable situation,” said Superintendent Aaron Rosander, who stressed the need to provide reliable transportation to students.

The emergency declaration allows Denair to seek bids in a compressed time frame. Meanwhile, when school resumes January 5, 2015, after the holiday break, the district expects to drivers from Storer Transportation of Modesto operating the buses while bids are being evaluated.

The change will not affect the route schedule, said Linda Covello, Denair’s chief business officer. She said the new company will be expected to use the four DUSD buses and offer an equivalent position to the current transportation supervisor.

Covello said Denair expects to spend about $75,000 to outsource busing, which would save about $39,000 from what was budgeted. The new company will provide bus services for the remainder of this school year, at which time the outsourcing arrangement will be re-evaluated.

Louisa Allen Retires from DUSD Board

Louisa AllenDenair Unified School District board member Louisa Allen was honored for twelve years of service at the November meeting, held in Denair Middle School’s Coyote Center. She was presented with a plaque, thanking her for her service to the district, by Dr. Walt Hanline. Allen served three terms, starting in December, 2001, running through November, 2013. Prior to serving on the board, Allen was a paraeducator at Denair Elementary School for twenty-four years, directly serving hundreds of Denair’s students.

After the meeting, Allen said, “I thoroughly enjoyed being on the school board, even now when we are on a very bumpy road.  I tried my best and hope the citizens of Denair realize we all have tried our best. Thank you to the citizens that stood behind me during the good and bad times. I want to thank all of the members on our staff, for all the hard work they have done to make our district one to be proud of.  I wish the new members good luck and enjoy the ride as I did.”

While Allen isn’t a product of Denair’s school system, all three of her children, as well as three of her grandchildren, attended school in Denair. Allen said one of the things she’ll most miss is handing diplomas to the 2014 Denair High School graduating class in June.

At the December, 2013, meeting, Sandi Dirkse and Kathi Dunham-Filson will join the board, bringing it back to five trustees. The board has been operating with four trustees since the resignation of Julian Wren, earlier this summer.