JAMES: Timing is Everything

(Eamon Queeney / North State Journal)

On Monday, August 26, 2019, we began our school year. Central office staff was asked to be at two schools each. We debriefed the morning around 11:00 am. Transportation had reported that all buses were on time for the morning routes. As we had been communicating, there would be issues the first few days until traffic patterns settle into a new routine.

I was interviewed around 1:30 and I stand by what I said at that point, “Great start of school.” We had business leaders, school board members, city, county officials, and Rep. Sasser at multiple sites to welcome the students. This was certainly a great way to start a new school year.

Later that day we were on the radio — before our afternoon buses rolled out — same story, great start! We ran into trouble at our first bus pickup sites, Aquadale and Locust traffic was so heavy our buses could not get out on time. We also had students not registered for a bus route. The state transportation policy prevents us from just stopping at a stop not designated in our TIMS software. This created additional wait time. We asked and sent home numerous messages about registering for a halt. This delayed the pickup at the second sight. Stanfield buses also had issues getting out of the lot. Therefore, our second tier was behind at some sights 45 minutes. This is when the wheels fell off the bus (metaphorically). Stanfield began calling parents and stayed until every child was home. Unfortunately, after 7:00 for one student. I was on the phone with this grandfather and so was transportation department. We all apologized and took measures to ensure this would not happen again. We transport over 4,200 students on 66 buses and thousands of miles each day, there will be issues, not to the extent Monday night, but it is a huge and difficult task.

We are not alone in dealing with significant transportation issues. I talk with surrounding district superintendents, we all say the same thing, “the first week will not represent our best results.” Carlotte-Meck had their last student dropped off at 8:30 pm on Monday. Cabarrus and Union had late drop-offs and missed pickups. We simply cannot predict all the issues the first day.

The news accurately reported a great start — as the article was done prior the afternoon route. We have made corrections and we publically apologize for the mishap. As of Thursday we had all buses back in by 5:28 pm. We will continue to monitor and adjust. Our longest route is a high school route at 1 hour and 28 minutes according to our GPS tracking system. If this is incorrect, please call our central office.

Our organization is not perfect; we make mistakes as any organization does. It is what we do to correct those mistakes that we should focus on. Again, our sincere apologies, we value students, parents and the public trust.