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Rochester School Leaders Hear First Report on Privatized Busing

How many drivers were re-hired? How did the first day of school go? These were some of the questions representatives of Durham School Services answered.

Rochester School Leaders Hear First Report on Privatized Busing

Seventy-five former bus drivers for Rochester Community Schools were re-hired this summer by Durham School Services, the private company chosen by school leaders to manage its transportation department.

And for the 41 positions that remained, Durham received 184 applications — and now has a waiting list of drivers looking to work in Rochester.

Those were some of the figures presented to Rochester Board of Education members on Monday night by representatives of Durham, a nationwide bus management company.

Last spring, Rochester Schools leaders approved the  along with custodian and partial ground services, to save the district money. The school district's contract with Durham is for three years and is estimated to save the district $4.7 million.

Durham was on the Monday night board meeting agenda before the Friday retail fraud arrest of one of the district's bus drivers; Durham representatives did speak to that instance during their presentation.

See "School Board to Durham Leaders: How Will You Restore Our Confidence?"

But mostly, Durham's Director of Business Development Justin Grygiel and Colleen Mayes, the Rochester manager, detailed the transition and the first few days of school.

The first day

If you're a Rochester Schools parent and no one answered the phone when you called the transportation department on the first day of school this year, know this: the No. 1 priority that day was your kids. 

"I wanted to make sure all of the routes were covered," said Mayes, a 22-year Rochester Schools employee who was hired by Durham to manage the drivers and the routes. "The kids were my priority, not the phone calls."

After the first day of school, Mayes asked three experienced drivers to help answer parent phone calls. Many of the calls were about the routes themselves: for the first year, the district did not mail letters to families telling them about their bus route, stop or pickup time. Instead, the information was put on MyRCS, the online student portal.

Mayes said she has received 110 bus stop change requests; her goal is to respond to those by Oct. 15.

John Stoner, Director of Facilities, Operations and Transportation for the district, said he was happy with the transition and the startup of the school year.

"To say I was nervous was an understatement," said Stoner. In addition to the paperless system, the district was also faced with transportation challenges of all-day kindergarten and of some students at Focus Schools transferring to other schools and needing busing. 

By the numbers

Mayes said she has appreciated the level of support Durham has been able to give her staff. She presented board members with a by-the-numbers look at busing in Rochester:

  • There are 100 buses.
  • They drive 540 routes.
  • They travel 4,000 miles a day.
  • They transport 7,000 students.

Most of those numbers were similar to the numbers last year, before the transition, Mayes said.

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