Posted on 13 April 2017.
By Judy Reed
The Cedar Springs Board of Education held a special meeting on Monday, March 27, to finalize contract issues, and heard information on the possibility of privatizing transportation.
Earlier in March, a split board had voted to issue non-renewals of contracts for high school principal Ron Behrenwald and transportation supervisor Jerry Gavin. Those were rescinded after Behrenwald and the administration agreed on a contract, and Gavin decided to retire from public education. It appears he will likely go to work at Dean Transportation, and do the same job he is doing now with Cedar Springs, if the school chooses to privatize.
The board did vote 5-2 to approve a non-renewal for part time employee Linda Bayink. Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn explained that Linda had been with the school for many years and they couldn’t appreciate her more, but they needed someone full time in that position. She said that Linda understood, and that they were hoped to keep her in the district, and that they were checking out other positions for her. Both Ted Sabinas and Michelle Bayink voted no, with Sabinas saying he didn’t think it was an accurate account.
The board heard a presentation on the possibility of subcontracting busing to Deans Transportation. Dean’s currently buses Cedar Springs special education students, and several area districts also currently use them, including Sparta, Tri County, Muskegon, Reeths Puffer, Grand Rapids, Kent Intermediate School District, and Ottawa Intermediate School District.
VanDuyn said that the same team that currently oversees Cedar Springs transportation would be running it for Dean’s, using the same software, and from the same building they currently work out of. The buses would be housed at Cedar Springs, and Dean’s is willing to hire the drivers.
In January they received an informal quote from Dean’s, then meetings began with the district and the bus drivers. VanDuyn said they wanted the drivers to know what it would look like to be employed by Dean’s, what their pensions would like, etc., so had Dean’s meet with the drivers, then the drivers met with the administration. Then, in a private vote, the bus drivers voted to go with Dean’s. There were 21 drivers present, with 16 voting yes, 3 no, and 2 undecided.
Gavin said that when he started in the 1970s in transportation, it was a whole different type of job—many retirees and others who only needed some part time work took advantage of the job. He said that now, with all the changes, such as training and medical requirements, it’s no longer really part time. “You can’t expect to keep people working split shifts with no insurance and no summer hours. We haven’t been fully staffed for the last 6-10 years.” He also noted their aging bus fleet. “If Dean comes in, we’ll automatically nine buses out,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s the right thing to do at this point.”
Bus driver Rebecca Fisk, who has been with the district for 15 years, spoke to the board on behalf of the bus drivers. She told the board that to be honest, she was going to work for Dean (no matter what they decided). “They have what I need,” she said. She explained how she is supposed to be unassigned—to sub for other drivers—but they are understaffed. “When Obamacare hit, it reduced my hours to 28. It hurt. That’s $300-$400 a month. At Dean’s we can get that,” she said.
The 2016/2017 Transportation Budget is $2,943,208, The 2017/2018 Transportation Budget is set at $3,683,314, which includes six new buses and two mechanics instead of just one, because they cannot keep up with the repairs.
The proposed budget from Dean’s, comparing apples to apples will be $1,774,274. The school will still be responsible for fuel ($270,000) and payments to other schools ($1,146,000), for a total of $3,190,274. That’s a savings of $493,040.
Dean’s will also purchase their bus fleet at blue book value, which causes a one-time infusion into the budget of $638,600. Between the savings and the purchase of the bus fleet, the school would see a financial impact of $1,132,640.
They also received bids from three others:
Durham bid $1,615,000 plus requiring CSPS to buy buses as follows: 1st yr 12, 2nd yr 1, 4th yr 13.
First Student bid $1,450,000, a generic quote per bus figure but it was verbal only with nothing in writing.
Operation Engineers Local 324 – Operate as they currently do or $3,683,314 with CSPS running all operations.
Sabinas noted that when he was asked if he could attend the meeting between the administration and the bus drivers, he was told yes (by board president Matt Shoffner) and that later he was told no by VanDuyn.
“I know that I said that,” explained Shoffner, “but I did send an email rescinding that saying that it probably wasn’t the best thing for one of us to be there.”
Sabinas noted that it was a big decision. “We will be remembered as the board that decided,” he remarked.
The board may vote on it at their next meeting on April 24, at 6:45 p.m.
In other action, the board also voted to update facility fees for users within and outside of the community.
For a complete list of items discussed and voted on, visit the school website at www.csredhawks.org. The meetings are also recorded on video, and you can access them through the school website.