RISD employees: School buses may not pick up children within 2 miles of schools if new contract signed

ROCKWALL – School buses may not pick up children anymore who live within two miles of school buildings if the Rockwall ISD school board approves the outsourcing of transportation services to Durham School Services at their public meeting May 23.

That’s just one of many allegations made by several RISD Transportation Department employees to this week when they also charged the Transportation Department has been “chronically mismanaged” for years, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars – if not more.

According to the RISD employees, who asked their names not be used for fear of retribution, they decided to speak out when they heard that RISD Chief Financial Officer Mike Singleton recommended the outsourcing of transportation to save $500,000 per year at the school board meeting May 9, because “tax-payers deserve to know the real story” about at least part of what’s going on behind the scenes due to the school funding battle.

They said Singleton has even admitted to Transportation department employees that mismanagement has been a big problem there and challenged him to publicly divulge how he intends to save that much money in detail because they don’t believe it’s possible through outsourcing. They added he has not responded to them about the two mile radius and seems to be trying to keep it secret.

“Durham is in this to make a profit,” one concerned employee said.

They added that if RISD really wanted to save money they should have made a host of changes in the Transportation department over the past several years.

For example, they said RISD has “gone through” about 250 bus drivers at a training cost of about $1,000 each during the past two years because the school district pays its bus drivers among the lowest starting wages in the state.

“The starting wage in RISD is only $11 per hour, about $5.50 less than elsewhere. In Royse City, for example, the starting wage is $17.85 per hour,” one Transportation employee said.

“Because the wages are so low, to get bus drivers to work here, Rockwall has been offering free commercial drivers licenses that normally cost $3,000,” another employee said. “The joke is that hundreds of people have come to Rockwall to get their free CDLs and then hired on elsewhere because the pay is much higher at all the other school districts.”

“Just go to Rockwall and get your CDL for free. Don’t tell them you’re leaving. That’s what all the other school district transportation people are saying.”

“RISD just paid them to sit there. Then the drivers went somewhere else to work where they could get paid more.”

“What kind of way is that to run a transportation department?” they asked. “If they really wanted to save money, Rockwall wouldn’t do such a thing.”

They added if the school district really wanted to save $500,000 then it would have implemented Carol Keeton Strayhorn’s report from several years ago that recommended school buses not pick up children within two miles of schools.

“But Rockwall wanted to pass the bond election to finance the football stadium expansion, the aquatic center and more, so they chose not to follow her suggestions back then and tell anybody.”

In addition, they charged that from that bond election, $2 million were supposed to go to the Transportation department for upgrades, but they’ve never seen any of it because the RISD Administration has chosen to use it elsewhere.

“Probably in the football stadium,” one employee said. “They really wanted that.”

Another example the upset employees mentioned was that bus drivers are too often required to go back and pick up children who are late and miss the bus.

“Having to go back and pick up children who can’t get to the bus stop on time costs time and money,” said one employee.

Then there’s the incident two years ago when a bus driver lost control of a school bus, it ended up in a pond and a child was seriously injured, they said.

They charged he should never have been driving the bus for many months because he had health problems which required he use a small oxygen tank to breathe while driving.

“He had tubes running up his nose while he was driving from the oxygen tank, sitting right next to him on the dashboard,” an employee said.

“What if that oxygen tank would have blown up when the bus crashed?” another asked. “It could have caused an explosion which could have injured or killed a bunch of children!”

The employees said they asked then Director of Transportation, Brad Hamrick, why he allowed the man to keep driving with an oxygen tank on board and if he realized what the consequences would be if the driver “got in an accident.”

“Brad said ‘I’m covered by it because my superior knows about it’,” said one employee, who added his superior at that time was Risk Management Executive Dr. James Parker who, after being demoted, is now about to retire as the Director of Transportation. Hamrick is no longer with RISD.

In addition, the upset employees charged the supervisors under Hamrick, Debbie Burns and Sheila Powers, knew about the driver’s health problems because the driver came to meetings for months with his oxygen tank.

“Back when the accident happened, RISD said it was an air pump. It was no air pump, it was an oxygen tank,” one employee said.

Several employees said they believe that RISD should let Burns and Powers go.

“What we have is the worst management in the world,” one said.

“The same people who have been mismanaging the department for years are still there,” said another. “It’s been chronically mismanaged.”

By J.J. Smith, Publisher


8 Responses for “RISD employees: School buses may not pick up children within 2 miles of schools if new contract signed”

  1. kia says:

    At a meeting with representatives from Durham, they were asked how they will save $ 500,000.00 per year. Their response was that as a large national company they have the ability to get bus parts at a much lower price than the school district. So with about 100 buses, they’re saying they can save $ 5000.00 per bus, per year by buying items such as tires, oil filters, headlights, etc. How is that possible? It is doubtful that repairs to buses even average a total of $ 5000.00 per year, per bus. It was a laughable statement, who did they think they were kidding? If they get the contract, I guess we’ll see how they save $ 500,000.00 per year.

  2. keller sanderson says:

    This whole situation is a wake up call to all school districts-beware of success and keep things simple and honest. All organizations have mission statements, I am sure RISD has had one. Current administrators you need to live up to what you you proclaim your mission is. Learn from your bad habits and correct them. Our children are watching you, they may be the leaders that make decisions for your senior years. NS it is nice that you stick up for the two ladies, but could several employees be all wrong in their allegations? It is part of human nature to react to situations that position you to fail, you get defensive, you want to survive-nothing wrong with that. Bad habits that never get contested (until now) can be hard to face and correct. Be a human being-correct them, do not repeat them and let’s get back on track. The outsourced departments need the support and encouragement from the citizens of Rockwall. Are you in for the long haul.

  3. wb says:

    This sounds very typical to me of the Rockwall school system. While they need to reduce the administration overhead they instead outsource the employees depriving them of pensions they have worked year for.

    How many school systems take over a whole school for administration plus many other buildings around the county? After Dr. Burton contracted for the Rachael Challenge program he retired from the RISD and went to work for the group. Could that be a conflict of interest? I understand one of the upper managers was taking his car to the RISD mechanic to get work done during school hours.

    If the two mile rule is implemented, do you realize how far the students are going to have to walk? If they can’t walk the 2 miles someone will have to be home to drive them. This just isn’t right.

    The school district needs to cut back on it’s spending to resolve it’s financial problems and not lay off the lowest paid employees.

  4. bp says:

    I would like to thank the ‘generous people’ at the RISD Transportation Department for my FREE CDL. It has allowed me to go 12 miles east to another school district which pays me to start $17.75 per hour. I, along with COUNTLESS other drivers saved ourselves $3800. which we would have had to pay for CDL training. No need to advertise that you train new drivers for free: RISD IS THE LAUGHING STOCK OF ALL THE DISTRICTS AROUND

  5. cjc says:

    There is no magic in this world. How is an outsourcing company going to pay these RISD employees their current wages, pay for liability insurance, pay for health insurance, pay Social Security, pay Workers Comp, purchase new buses, maintain the old buses, pay the high cost of gasoline, manage all the employees and MAKE A PROFIT plus SAVE HALF A MILLION A YEAR? Ain’t gonna happen.

    Here’s what is going to happen. They are promising the employees a job for a year but when that time is over, they’ll all be booted out, one way or another. The transportation program will be destroyed and the RISD will be at the mercy of out sourcing companies. That savings will vanish like their promises! Besides, is this any way to treat long time, loyal employees? We all know the answer. It’s a quick fix but not a lasting fix.

  6. susan heim says:

    NS you are right; no one should have said that the ‘two ladies’ (Burns and Powers) should be let go. That is harsh; they should clean the whole house starting at the top. All the allegations in the article are true. Honest & lovely or not, they have been guilty of mismanagement and favoritism for years. No one is ‘complaining’ or being childish; the truth has to come out. Sooner or later when you ‘crap on people long enough and you don’t clean it up, you’re gonna step in it.’ It is time the truths be known; more is going to come out. This is taxpayers money so we do have a say.

  7. NS says:

    Seriously people need to shut up. Be happy you have job! Stop causing problems!’ Stop cpmplainig and do your job like your supposed those that are complaining you are going to get a rude awakening when they go somewhere else an they won’t keep you when start the mess that they have started here. Start acting like adults . The two ladys that were mentioned the are the most honest and the most hard working individuals that I have worked with. So o say keep them on!!!! As well all the others. So you people that are complaining and acting like children shut your mouths and move on either here or somewhere else! None of this is their fault.

  8. rp says:

    Will the board members require the new company to save at least $500,000 each year. How long is their contract? Is this in their contract?

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