Leon County School Board (LCSB) meeting materials show that a “Transportation Department Updates” item, which included a thirty-one page report on proposed changes to the LCS bus system, was scheduled to be addressed at the May 14th, 2019 meeting of the LCS School Board. However, the “Transportation Department Updates” item was never discussed.
A May 13th agenda review meeting for the Tuesday, May 14, 2019 School Board meeting listed six items for discussion. One of the items included was the “Transportation Department Updates” item.
TR reviewed the minutes of the May 14th LCSB meeting and discovered that five of the six issues covered in the “pre-meeting” were discussed at the May 14th meeting. However, the “Transportation Department Updates” item was not.
Why is this important?
The transportation report highlighted an important issue that ultimately contributed to a bus crisis that Superintendent Rocky Hanna described as a “colossal failure.”
The issue addressed on the first page of the EDULOG report was a change that indicated bus services would be limited to “transportation-eligible” students. The report clearly stated that LCS requested that the transportation redesign not include stops for students that were less than two miles from their school.
These pick-ups were identified as not eligible in the EDULOG report and are commonly referred to as “courtesy routes”. LCS had been providing this service for at least twenty years.
Sources have told TR that Superintendent Hanna was behind the push to eliminate these routes in an effort to save money. LCS receives subsidies to pay for transportation outside the two-mile limit, but must use local resources for the “courtesy routes.”
Hanna’s support for eliminating the routes was made public in his statement at the October 23rd, 2018 School Board meeting when he said,
“we can’t explain where these routes came from, how they were started decades and decades ago, but we inherited them and we’re going, like we talked about yesterday in our workshop, to a new system with Edulog that’s going to fine tune routing and bring us into this century.”
However, Hanna would soon change his mind.
When the EDULOG optimized routes were generated and published before school in August, TR has been told that phone calls to LCS asked about the absence of some of the “courtesy routes.”
The calls ultimately resulted in some routes being manually added back into the “optimized” system.
When the optimized routes were implemented on the first day of school, the operational failures that resulted were blamed on EDULOG and Manny Joanos. Both were publicly singled out and removed from their transportation responsibilities.
The response by Superintendent Hanna was to revert back to the old bus system. This decision included reinstalling something Hanna was against – the “courtesy routes.”
This decision raises several questions.
Will these “courtesy routes” eventually be eliminated to save money?
If not, does this indicate that the elimination of the “courtesy routes” was a major part of the problem with the optimized bus system?
If this is the case, why blame EDULOG and Joanos for the problem when eliminating the “courtesy routes” was a policy supported by Superintendent Hanna?
Also, where were the Leon County School Board members on the issue? It is hard to imagine that the LCSB members were not aware of the elimination of the “courtesy routes”? Did they all initially support the move?
There was no mention of the impact of the elimination of the “courtesy routes” on the operational problems that were discussed at the LCSB meeting following the first day of classes.
And finally, why was the EDULOG report not discussed in a regular scheduled LCS School Board meeting?
TR is currently seeking answers to all of these questions.