GCSD spends 10K for bus study

GUILDERLAND — The school board here has agreed to spend $9,850 for an efficiency study on busing students.

The contract with Transportation Advisory Services was recommended by Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders after comments were made during budget discussions that the district should look at privatization.

The study, which will take 90 days, is to be completed by March, before the proposal for next year’s district budget is reviewed, Sanders told the school board at its meeting last Tuesday.
Board member Colleen O’Connell described elementary-school buses at Pine Bush as "busting out" with kids, while the 4:05 p.m. buses are virtually empty.

Last spring, The Enterprise printed letters to the editor making similar assertions about half-filled buses.

Board member John Dornbush asked if the district put out requests for proposals; Sanders replied that he was familiar with TAS from his work at another school district and it is the only company he is aware of that does school transportation studies independently as opposed to being linked with marketing a service.

Sanders said he expects the study will qualify for state aid.
"Where is this $10,000 coming from"" asked board member Barbara Fraterrigo.

When Sanders said it would come from the transportation budget, Fraterrigo asked if the supervisor of that department, Christine Sagendorf, couldn’t conduct the study.

Sanders said she was open to the concept of hiring TAS.
"It’s finding out what you do well as well as areas you can improve," said Sanders.

Fraterrigo asserted that the district had spent funds before on studies, such as on gifted students, and nothing had come of it.
"I’m just torn," she said. "Ten thousand dollars is big bucks."
"You’re bringing in people who...can bring an objective eye," said Superintendent Gregory Aidala. Self-analysis, he said, can become self-fulfilling.

Ultimately, the board agreed to contract with TAS by a vote of 8 to 0.

A memorandum from Sanders to the board members says the company was formed in 1987; it’s main office is located in western New York and it has a secondary office in Florida.

TAS has provided a wide range of transportation studies for over 400 school districts and agencies in 16 states, said Sanders; local school districts that have used TAS include Bethlehem and Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk.

Sanders’s memo outlines 10 areas on which TAS will focus. It will conduct an in-depth analysis of the district’s current transportation operation and compare it to similar local operations, both contracted and district operated.

TAS will also conduct a financial analysis, including the cost of changes, comparing current costs to industry norms, and recommending ways to be more efficient.

TAS will explore privatization, including the impact of selling Guilderland’s bus fleet and the potential to lease the district’s new transportation facility.

Also, TAS will review the current routing process to ensure compliance with district policies and to check for efficiency.

TAS will review policy with an emphasis on improving the program’s effectiveness. Labor agreements and the labor structure will be analyzed along with a comparative review of benefit and wage data.

TAS will review fleet replacement and the spare-bus ratio in conjunction with bus maintenance.

Management options will be examined, including contracting some or all of the transportation operations.

And, finally, TAS will create a report card for the transportation program with recommendations for improvement where needed.

Raises for tech staff

The eight Guilderland staff members who work with technology and communications — a unit not affiliated with a union — will get raises of 3.85 percent each year for three years.

The school board last Tuesday unanimously ratified a three-year contract that runs from July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2008.

Susan Tangorre, the district’s administrator for human resources, went over for The Enterprise details of the contract, which was not discussed publicly by the board.

Salaries for the group, headed by Joe Lorenzo, chief technology specialist, range from $34,398 to $47,640 the first year of the contract. The technology staff works 12 months a year.

The eight provide support for computer hardware and software for instructional staff at the district’s seven schools and for clerical staff at the schools and at the district’s central office, the transportation department, and the maintenance department, said Tangorre.

The Guilderland School District has over 1,200 computers, she said.
"It really is not as rich a ratio as other districts have nor as much as we would like sometimes," she said of the number of technical staff members compared to computers.

She stressed how hard the technology staff works, keeping up with developments in an ever-changing field.

One of the things the new contract has added, Tangorre said, is $20 per hour for training to maintain technical skills and certification.
"It’s critical for these folks to get the certification they need," said Tangorre. "It’s constantly changing."

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Heard a report on the health-insurance benefits offered by the district, as covered earlier by The Enterprise;

— Accepted the donation of a Minolta camera from Diane and Louie Martin, which will be used in the high school’s photography program;

— Approved a bid award of $38,140 from Marshall’s Garage for two mini-vans to transport special-needs students.

Ten vendors were solicited, three responded, and Marshall’s had the lowest bid that met specifications, Sanders reported. Funding was approved in May by voters as part of the $651,860 bus and equipment proposition;

— Adopted a policy on staff complaints and grievances;

— Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Nancy Andress that two Guilderland staff members have received National Board Certification as teachers — Susan Lafond, who teaches English as a second language at the high school, and Melissa Gergen, a library media specialist at the high school;

— Learned that the annual Guilderland Faculty Art Show will run through Jan. 3 at the Guilderland Public Library;

— Made plans for a January meeting with trustees from the Guilderland Public Library. Board members John Dornbush, Cathy Barber, and Colleen O'Connell volunteered to attend; and

— Met in executive session to discuss extending the superintendent’s contract and administrator performance reviews.

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