Ypsilanti Citizen Education Sidetrack

Ypsilanti Schools accept transportation consolidation
By Adrienne Ziegler
Jun. 8, 2010   ·   3:07 p.m.

Connie Shelton, an East Middle School Teacher, speaks against the WISD transportation consolidation plan at Monday's special meeting of the Ypsilanti Board of Education. The board approved the motion to join the consolidation by a vote of 5 to 2.

"Shame on you" echoed through the audience Monday night after the Ypsilanti Public Schools Board of Education approved a plan to join a countywide consolidated...read more

Willow Run appoints new board member
By Adrienne Ziegler
Jun. 5, 2010   ·   8:16 a.m.

The Willow Run School Board looks on as Kristine Thomas, a district parent and previous board member, is sworn in as trustee on Thursday night. Thomas will take the position of Joi Jenson who resigned in early May.

The Willow Run School Board appointed a new, yet familiar trustee to the board of education during their regular meeting Thursday night.

Kristine Thomas, a Willow...read more

Willow Run approves county-wide transportation plan
By Adrienne Ziegler
May. 27, 2010   ·   2:09 p.m.

The Willow Run School District signed on to a countywide consolidated transportation plan at their regular board meeting last week.

The plan aims to save transportation...read more

Lincoln offers summer courses to area high-schoolers
By Mark Tower
May. 26, 2010   ·   7:49 p.m.

Students from Lincoln and other nearby districts are being invited to participate in Lincoln High School's Summer Academy this year, registration for which opened...read more

Willow Run terminates student services administrator
By Adrienne Ziegler
May. 26, 2010   ·   12:26 a.m.

Willow Run School Board President Sheri Washington said she didn't know if the district was going to press charges against former Student Services Administrator Laconda Hicks after the board fired Hicks during a special meeting Tuesday night.

The Willow Run Board of Education unanimously voted to terminate its contract with former Student Services Administrator Laconda Hicks Tuesday night during a special...read more

Willow Run considers joining countywide transportation program

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School board, district staff debate pros and cons of consolidation

By Adrienne Ziegler
May. 10, 2010    ·    5:16 p.m.

Willow Run Community Schools could save hundreds of thousands of dollars by joining a countywide transportation consolidation program run by Washtenaw Intermediate School District, according to a presentation by program coordinators at the district board meeting Thursday night.

The move to join the program would save the district money by streamlining routes, maintenance and administration across all WISD schools, purchasing fuel and parts in bulk, and reducing personnel and administrative costs.

As designed, the program aims to save between 18 and 25 percent on transportation costs for participating districts.

According to their adjusted 2009-2010 budget, Willow Run currently spends $1.14 million on transportation for students. If all 10 Washtenaw school districts join the consolidated transportation program, program administrators propose that the new transportation budget would be $905,478 for Willow Run – a savings of more than $200,000.

Across Washtenaw County School Districts, there are 11-12 different fuel vendors, 10 versions of bus specifications, 10 different wage rates and benefit packets for transportation employees and several other key differences that could be streamlined to produce more cost-effective transportation for all districts, said Brian Marcel, WISD’s assistant superintendent for business services.

WISD is consulting with two out-of-state transportation companies to design the program, as well as three teams made up of maintenance, routing and administrative employees from all ten districts. The design teams did not include current bus drivers, but some members of the teams were former bus drivers for their districts.

Not everyone is behind the move to join the consolidation. Willow Run employees currently working in transportation for the district would have to re-apply for a position with WISD.

There is no guarantee that WISD will re-hire Willow Run employees, although Marcel said WISD hopes to re-hire as many of the current employees as possible and current employees of the participating districts will get first interviews for the posted jobs.

“We’re going to have a problem with the fact that we still have a contract,” said Ray Korte, chief steward for ASCME local 3451 that represents the district’s transportation employees. “As this proposal goes on, we see that were going to have to contest this.”

Korte also said that the union has the right to bargain for the work if the district were to privatize transportation, or to join the consolidation.

Some board members were also concerned about whether current workers would be able to maintain their jobs.

“All money is not good money when it’s at the expense of people,” said Trustee Joi Jenson during the meeting Thursday evening.

“I take the union’s concerns very seriously. It is definitely a human factor,” said acting Willow Run Superintendent Laura Lisiscki. “It is very import that the unions stay state employees. We do not want them to lose their benefits.”

Current transportation employees of the district will likely face a pay cut if they are hired for the consolidated program; however, there are options on the table that would allow them to keep the benefits they have acquired.

“The way non-instructional services are handled in the future is going to look different,” Lisiscki said. “Sooner or later this is going to be mandated. This is going to be outsourced. We still have the opportunity to give the employees choices. It’s very important that we keep them as state employees.”

Willow Run has recently submitted a deficit elimination plan to the state that details the cuts and changes that will be made for the district to dig itself out of a $3.3 million hole over the next several years. During the meeting, Board President Sheri Washington noted that the plan has not been approved yet by the state.

“The deficit elimination plan that we submitted to the state does anticipate that you'll save $250,000 from the transportation budget,” Bert Emerson, interim director of finance and operations informed the board during the meeting.

Emerson also said he thought it would be difficult for the district to achieve the same savings on their own that they could get with the consolidation program.

According to the WISD transportation consolidation website, all districts will need to decide their level of participation in this program by June 2010.

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