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PMSD considering outsourcing its school bus drivers, meeting set

Editor's Note:
For those who don't remember, they tried 'outsourcing school bus drivers' in Chattanooga, Tennessee and it made the news in 2016:

Report: Driver Asked Kids ‘Are You Ready To Die’ Before Crashing Bus In Chattanooga

This driver was found guilty in 2018 for the crash, and subsequently charged with statutary rape.  

(Original Article Pocono Record)

Despite Election Day being over, yard signs have been popping up throughout communities in the Poconos over the past couple of weeks.

Community members have been campaigning to drum up support for the transportation staff at Pocono Mountain School District before the school board hosts a public meeting on Wednesday at 6 p.m. to potentially outsource those services.

The signs began to dot lawns and the sides of streets after the district’s school board announced at a Sept. 5 meeting that they would be looking into the possibility of outsourcing transportation services. The transportation department is made up of 150 bus drivers, 35 additional staff and 170 buses. The cost of operating the department in 2017 was more than $15.2 million, according to Wendy Frable, PMSD public relations director.

In addition to putting out signs, community members have had their voices heard at school board meetings leading up to Wednesday’s hearing. Dozens of supporters have attended meetings, wearing yellow to show support, and pleaded with board members not to hire an outside company.

Parents, and students alike, question how replacing local, experienced drivers with those unfamiliar with the area could have an adverse impact on students within the district. 

“We will not entrust our child’s safety in the hands of any strangers,” said Dawn Cello at an Oct. 10 meeting. “The present program is an efficient, high-quality program that employs Pocono Mountain residents who live here, pay taxes here, care about our children and live in our neighborhoods.”

At a previous meeting, Rusty Johnson, board president, told the public in attendance that no decisions regarding transportation services will be made until Nov. 21, the meeting after the public hearing on Nov. 14. Johnson added that Nov. 21 was not a deadline and the board could make a decision after that date.

Wednesday’s public hearing will feature a proposal from First Student. First Student is a transportation company that operates in both the United States and Canada. According to the company’s website, it employs 50,500 employees and is used by 1,100 school districts in North America.

Wednesday’s meeting will be held inside of the Pocono Mountain East High School auditorium and begin at 6 p.m. School board member James Gamble will be presenting a report from the district’s transportation committee and an independent auditor will also be presenting financial data during the meeting.

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