Keeping The Buses Moving

The city of Dallas will pay $2.4 million to keep Dallas County Schools’ crossing guards on the job through the end of the school year. (Courtesy photo DCS)

In November, voters chose to shut down Dallas County Schools, Dallas ISD’s sole transportation provider.

While DCS had many well-documented problems, it did manage to get 29,000 DISD students to and from school every day. Now district officials are scrambling to ensure that the busses will continue rolling come next fall.

“We’re nervous about it a little, but we’re also confident that we can get this done,” DISD deputy superintendent of operations Scott Layne said.

In December, the district considered finding another contractor and developing a hybrid district-contractor partnership before instead opting to create its own transportation department.

Out of the six largest school districts in the state, Dallas is the only one that uses a contractor for all of its transportation needs. Finding a new outside contractor for next school year would have been next to impossible, district leaders said.

DISD covers 384 square miles, and includes parts of 16 separate municipalities. Most vendors contacted by the district said they would need one to two years to get up to speed.

“We also felt like we could do the program better, more effectively, and more efficiently with our own staff,” Layne said.

The district has already interviewed candidates for the newly created executive director of transportation position. Officials hope to announce a hiring before the end of February.

That person will oversee a department of more than 1,100 people, including a small administrative team and a larger contingent of support personnel consisting of dispatchers, monitors, mechanics, and approximately 850 drivers.

Dallas ISD expects to hire 1,100 employees for its new transportation department, including about 850 drivers. (Courtesy DCS)

DISD has received more than 400 driver applications from DCS employees. The district is processing and prioritizing them, but cannot yet hire anyone at this point due to the legal complexities of the situation, Layne said.

DISD also plans to hire at least three DCS police officers who will assist with school bus security issues.

Dallas County Schools officials are compiling an asset inventory list and are expected to release a dissolution distribution plan to DISD and the other districts the agency serves some time in February.

“I meet with the DCS CEO every week,” Layne said. “It’s definitely a team effort in terms of exchanging information.”

A taskforce of DISD administrators is also meeting weekly to keep the process moving forward with advocates from various fields of expertise. Risk management administrators are focusing on issues like bus title transfers and insurance while the technology department considers software challenges like business payroll, driving systems, and GPS. The human resources department is also preparing for the influx of new hires.

It’s a complex process, especially since there are so many issues that still need to be addressed, Layne said, adding he’s confident that DISD will get the job done.

“My first year goal is to provide at least the same level of service we’ve gotten in the past,” he said. “Of course, I would like to improve it and have every intention of doing that.”