Ava R-I Board Meets July 15 and July 19 to Discuss Student Transportation Board members and administrators will meet in regular session tonight, Thursday, July 21.

Board members and administrators will meet in regular session tonight, Thursday, July 21.

By Sue Curry Jones

The Ava R-I School Board held a special meeting on Friday, July 15, at 5:30 p.m.   Student transportation was the only topic on the agenda.

Board president Randy Spurlock facilitated the meeting, along with Superintendent Dr. Nancy Lawler.  Assistant Superintendent Mike Henry, and secretary, BJ Sterling, were absent.

Board members present were Troy Tredway, Bart Ellison, Marsha Aborn, Randy Spurlock, Lowell Strong and Vernon Johnson.   Ron Wallace was absent.

The purpose of the meeting was to move forward with the board’s recent decision to simplify the student transportation contract for 2016-17 and re-establish an amicable working relationship with the current group of route owners.

The session was a follow-up to the June meeting wherein Attorney Karen Bates-Crouch was asked to formulate new contract wording and add specific items to the agreement, as directed by the board of education.

In Friday’s session, Bates-Crouch stated two contractual agreements partnered together will fulfill the board’s needs as requested –– the documents are entitled, The Agreement for Right to Contract for Servicing of Bus Route(s), and Contract for Servicing of Bus Route(s).  Both documents would be required for each route.

The Agreement for Right to Contract for Servicing of Bus Routes defines the route to be serviced, and the date service commences.  It also records the fee the contractor or bus route owner pays for the right to contract the route.   This document allows the contractor or bus route owner to assign, transfer or sell their Right to Contract to another party, with board approval.

The second agreement entitled Contract for Servicing of Bus Route(s) states the contract is for the duration of one year, and may be renewed in perpetuity.  It also defines general provisions of the agreement, such as start / end date, compensation for contractors, base pay rate, mileage reimbursement rate, driver and sub training requirements.  The contract also details the additional obligations of the district school board, contractors, vehicle require-ments, and driver obligations.

School board member Bart Ellison questioned the use of the perpetuity clause.  He also questioned the use of the phrase fair market value, which was noted without referencing a set amount.   Bates-Crouch explained the fair market value is determined at the time of the proposed transaction, by agreement of a willing buyer and willing seller.

Ellison expressed several concerns noting there were no consequences written into the contract for mileage fraud.  He also noted the $1-million insurance requirement does not cover the district.  Bates-Crouch advised there may be a need for an indemnity clause, or a hold harmless agreement.

Board member Lowell Strong also recommended an umbrella policy for the group, which would provide added coverage.

Dr. Nancy Lawler commented the proposed contract does not have a morality clause for the contractors, and it is important for the group to be held to the same standards as staff members.

In response, Bates-Crouch noted the contract can easily reflect staff policy standards, by adding a clause noting guidelines for the current school year also apply to contractors and drivers.  Bates-Crouch advised “this is a morals clause.”

With several details still needing to be defined and concluded, the board gave each route owner or contractor a copy of the proposed documents.

The route owners and members of the board will meet again on Tuesday, July 19, at 9:00 a.m. in the board of education meeting room.  During the session they will discuss pay rates for dirt and paved routes, and options for the consolidation of routes.

Video of the July 15 meeting may be viewed on the Douglas County Herald website.

Transportation Session Held

on Tuesday, July 19

The Tuesday meeting began at  9:00 a.m. with board members Troy Tredway, Bart Ellison, Ron Wallace, Lowell Strong and Marsha Aborn in attendance.  Vernon Johnson and Randy Spurlock were absent.

Bus route owners attending were Gary Harvill, Roger Sanders, Dwain Turner, Randy Duckworth, Jan Turner, Judy McFarlin, Rolla Swofford, Larry Vinson, Dwayne Nash, and Clay McFarlin.

In the first hour of the session, Dr. Nancy Lawler walked the bus route owners through each of the 20 routes, noting how the routes were used last year.  Several routes were cited as okay, as student pick-up and drop-off  points were unchanged and doable for the upcoming school year.

However, route No. 3, previously run by David Stillings, and route No. 5, by David Dooms, were eliminated and the routes were broken down and transferred to Gary Harvill, bus No. 1 and Roger Sanders, bus No. 2.

And, according to Lawler, routes No. 8, 9, 10, and 11, were to be broken down and consolidated into two routes; but, after discussing this option with route owners Randy Duckworth and Jan Turner, this breakdown was deemed unfeasible, and the four routes were consolidated into three separate routes. Duckworth and Turner operate bus routes No. 8 and 9, respectively, and 10 and 11 were operated by Randy Jenkins and Alvie Dooms, respectively.

During the meeting, in a request from board member Troy Tredway, the route owners were encouraged to participate in the evaluation process of breaking down the routes, and help the board assess new configurations for the district.  In several of the discussion groups, drivers also noted routes marked by the administration were incomplete or incorrect.

Earlier this year, the school board paid for a professional consultant to assess and revamp the current busing system.  According to Lawler and Assistant Superintendent Mike Henry, the consultant was engaged to not only consolidate routes, but create a better, more fluid system.

It was evident during Tuesday’s meeting that finding a solution to student transportation and busing was not accomplished by hiring an outside consultant to assess district routes.  The answer to an efficient system was the opportunity to tap into the experience of the bus route owners and drivers –– as in the meeting on Tuesday, there was no doubt they were a solid source of knowledge on the Douglas County countryside and road system.  They knew where turn-arounds were doable, what roads or lanes intersect or cross over, what low lying areas flood, and bridge crossings that have become dangerous for buses.  Safety was evident in their comments.

A video of the meeting is on the Douglas County Herald website, and the session lasted for approximately 2-1/2 hours.

The student transportation matter remains unsettled; however, all of these issues –– contract approval and routes, will be discussed tonight, in the Thursday, July 21, meeting.  The session starts at 6:30 p.m. in the board of education room.  Meetings are open to the public.