The recent public flap about merging the bus fleets of the Central Regional and Berkeley Township School districts just makes me shake my head, again, at the silliness of local politics.
Why would we want to save our taxpayers potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars and provide our parents with better, more efficient services?
Okay, disclaimer time, before I get in trouble. In case you don't know, I am in my second term as a member of the Central Regional School Board. I must make it clear I am NOT speaking on behalf of our board or district, only our Superintendent and Board President speak officially for our district; any comments or opinions here are my own.
Now back to the buses. Simply put folks, it really is a no-brainer. There is potential for very significant savings and we could greatly, in my opinion, improve services. And the math is not that hard.
A quick comparison to the Lacey district, which is K -12 and has about the same number of students as our two combined, has about 40 buses in its fleet. And believe it or not, their kids get to school every day, the athletes get to every game, the classes make it every field trip destination. Our two districts have about 70. Each bus costs about $80,000 and last for about 15 years. Eventually, 30 fewer buses mean about $2.4 million less sitting in a parking lot.
I don't know who got our bus drivers at the Berkeley district all riled up about losing jobs. But I can tell you for a fact layoffs have NEVER BEEN DISCUSSED in any of the meetings and discussions of this topic that I have attended.
Eventually, staffs would and could be reduced through normal attrition. In fact, if you just check the signs you can see that both districts are almost always in need of extra drivers. If you don't believe that, then you elected the wrong guy.
Of course I am sure everyone's favorite anonymous poster will be spouting about how we should just fire them all, but I know that is not the way I think, nor do my colleagues when we talk about cost savings. Our employees are our friends and neighbors, they have families and need their jobs. It is always, ALWAYS a last resort when we have layoffs of any type. Again if you don't believe me, you elected the wrong guy.
As for better service, have you ever been on your way to work when the buses are out? Ever got behind both a Berkeley and CR bus? It can take you what seems like an hour to get to the parkway if you hit the road at the wrong time.
But the real advantage would be for our elementary school K-4 kids. They could all go to school at the same time and get home at a decent hour. In particular, the Potter School kids would get a much better schedule. We are always hearing complaints at Little League about how little time parents have to get homework, dinner and sports/activities done for those kids.
We at CR have also had great success in cutting costs by improving our route efficiencies and and entering into jointures with other districts, We feel there is potential for more revenue generating work if we combined fleets - giving drivers a chance to actually increase their income while bringing need revenue to our districts.
The fact of the matter is that this has been discussed for many years internally. For whatever reason (I know most of them, but will protect the guilty) we have not even been able to agree to even do a detailed study of the proposal.
And now we get to the real problem. We have way too many people more worried about 'protecting' their turf (jobs, controls, policy) than just doing the right thing and getting the job done. I am often asked when we will merge our districts. My answer is "when our school boards want to". Merging of the bus fleets would be perfect opportunity to test the waters and address the challenges. As you can see from this silly grandstanding, that is not the case.
Remember, in this country we get the government we deserve. This is YOUR fault - you put us here.
Okay Chief, have at it.