Brandon Schools: Efforts to reduce high transportation costs. By Matt Outlaw

Dear Ortonville-Brandon Community,

Over the last several decades, school districts have been looking for ways to reduce costs. The primary reasons for this have included rising legacy costs, increasing health care costs, declining enrollment and much more. During this time period, the Brandon School District has worked to make these needed reductions in ways that do not impact the quality of education provided to our students. This has included reduction in staff, reductions in pay, closure of buildings and the use of contracted employees among other things. As we prepare for the 2018-19 budget, we again need to find ways to be more efficient in order to preserve essential dollars for the education of our students. One area that is being looked at this year is the district’s high transportation costs. With this in mind, I wanted to share the responses to some of the frequently asked questions on this topic:
nSafety is not the district’s top priority (FALSE) – No matter who is managing the district’s transportation department, safety will always be the district’s top priority.
nBrandon’s transportation costs are high (TRUE) – Brandon is ranked the 151st most expensive transportation department in the State out of the 750 districts that offer transportation. For comparison, Goodrich is ranked 517.
nA decision has already been made (FALSE) – The district will accept bids over the next month and, if savings can be realized without jeopardizing safety, the board of education would debate and decide later in the spring.
nBrandon didn’t save money by contracting custodial staff (FALSE) – Brandon saves between $500,000 and $600,000 each year by contracting custodial services. This has resulted in millions in savings since making this change.
nContracting employees compromises quality (FALSE) – Almost all classroom assistants, paraprofessionals, interventionists, substitute teachers and several administrators are “contracted” employees. Most are local residents and these are among the most dedicated and caring people that work with our children. No matter who pays the salary of the employee, employees ultimately work for the students that they serve.
nFew districts use contracted transportation services (FALSE) – Approximately 30% of districts in the State use contracted transportation services and this number grows every year. The following are a few districts in the area that do so: Goodrich, Rochester, Linden, Birmingham, West Bloomfield, Plymouth, Southfield, Ann Arbor, Redford and many more.
nDrivers will lose their jobs (FALSE) – The truth is that transportation companies offer jobs to the existing drivers with the goal of retaining as many as possible. For example, Goodrich retained almost all of their drivers when they moved to a management company approximately 5 years ago.
nDrivers working through a management company won’t understand the community and are not appropriately vetted (FALSE) – Again, the goal of any management company would be to retain our current drivers. For those that are new, hiring local would be essential due to the split work schedules required for bus drivers. Furthermore, vetting would be the same whether drivers are in-house or through a management company.
In conclusion, we know that these are difficult decisions and choices that will not be taken lightly. With that said, all districts need to continue their search for more efficient ways of delivering support services. In the case that significant savings can be achieved within our transportation department, we will look forward to a public discussion on the topic with Brandon parents. Thank you for your understanding and Go Blackhawks!
Matthew S. Outlaw
Superintendent for the Brandon School District