Letter to the Editor: Ava District Bus Transportation System

December 10, 2019

Once again there is turmoil concerning the Ava District Bus Transportation System. I thought I might inform the community of what is going on so that when you hear that the bus operator owners don’t care about safety you will understand the situation. 

Back before I left office as a board member, there were a few board members that decided that it would be beneficial for the students, the bus owner-operators, and the District if the District would install video cameras in the buses. We assured the owner-operators that the cameras would only be used if a problem arose, and the video cameras would not be used to “watch” the drivers to find fault. If we needed to view the data, we would have that owner-operator present to view, too. 

We also assured them that the District would be responsible for purchasing, upkeep, theft, vandalism, and any expense that occurred to the school owned video equipment on their buses. 

So, now you hear that there is a problem with what was agreed on in the past. Let’s look at what the problems are. 

First, there is a big problem with trust. Incidents recently have completely ruined what little trust was left between the owner-operators and the Board Of Education (Board) and the District’s Superintendent. 

Just recently you may have noticed the District buying the Stillings route right to contract, which is a direct breech of the owner-operator contract and District and Board obligations. This action is completely opposite of the intentions and meanings of the words of the contract and what the Board expressed to the owner-operators at that time.

The Board, on behalf of the District, entered into a binding contract to insure that the current system that saves our District over $600k per year continues to operate as it has for past decades, which has always had  overwhelming support from the voters. This action will dismantle the present system.

Another issue that has been a factor in the mistrust is pay. The owner-operators missed one pay raise at the end of the last administration under the disguise of “efficiency rating,” which was a complete farce, and another raise under the excuse of the state inspection percentages, which was labeled as a safety problem for some Board members. 

All buses always pass the second time through and almost all issues were very minor and the District buses had many of the same issues. 

So, with no proper pay adjustments to keep the system viable, the owner-operators spent money that was hard to come by and, along with the District, hired an independent firm to audit the system. 

The report positively showed the system was grossly underpaid. But, with all the interference which led to many revisions and miscalculations of numbers that pretty much made the report hard to understand, the Board used the confusion to favor the District’s idea that it was not underpaid. So the audit was just a waste of money and time. 

A third factor is there were Board members that stated that they thought the owner-operators should be the ones not only paying for the cameras, but also pay for the radio and GPS devises. This brings some serious trust issues and inconsistency between the earlier Board and the later one. 

All of this brings us to now and the reason the owner-operators should not sign the document, even if they wanted to. 

The owner-operators have been given an Equipment Usage Agreement by the District with a 10–day ultimatum. 

If the owner-operators don’t sign, they will lose their right to contract and the business they have invested their lives into. 

The problem is this usage agreement does not contain the necessary wording to properly make a binding contract. This usage agreement refers to other documents outside of the binding signature required that can be completely changed in the future without the owner-operator’s approval. 

You might ask what’s the big deal? Well the big deal is that the District is wanting to put their property on a privately owned bus, and for the owner-operators, there very well will be many legal ramifications when this equipment is installed. For both parties sake, there should be a competent lawyer for both parties draw up the proper documents.

Folks, we either have a Board that is completely ignorant about what’s going on and don’t care, or there is some serious incompetency. 

The present Board is about to – and already have – entered into litigation and lawyer fees at a time when this could of been handled easily with proper negotiation from competent individuals. 

The Governor has recommended teacher pay adjustments and we are below his recommendations. Yet we will blow the funds that could accomplish these salary adjustments on lawyers. 

So you might ask why is this even happening then? It all boils down to current Board members that lied when they were elected saying the situation was settled and they wanted to move on, when in reality they do practically nothing until an issue with busing comes up. They scrutinize and magnify any issue in such a negative light to the point that it’s completely blown out of proportion. They have refused to fund the system to keep it healthy so that other community members would have interest to purchase these routes. They have consistently taken actions that devalue their businesses and their lively-hood without any care about the litigation that could come their way from many contract breeches. 

And now they have decided to just start keeping the right to contracts and forcefully take them away under the disguise of safety and school policy, when the contract the owner-operators hold states they must obey state and federal law and rules along with the District’s staff conduct rules. 

There was never any provision or intention in that contract to allow the Board or District to make new policy for the Board’s convenience to force a breech of contract.

There are only two things the owner-operators want and they are fair treatment and fair pay. It seems that is just too hard for the current Board of Education and District to do.

Troy Tredway

Ava, MO