A consultant paid for by the Sag Harbor School District has released a number of recommendations for how it can improve its busing system, many that could cost it more money than it already spends and some recommendations that the district is already implementing.
After reviewing the recommendations at its Monday, March 11 board meeting, some board members said they found the material lacking both in depth and usefulness.
The Walworth-based consulting firm, Transportation Advisory Services, was hired in February of 2018 for a base fee of $11,850 to analyze the district’s existing busing logistics. It provided its full report to the district in December, and the Sag Harbor School Board’s transportation subcommittee reviewed the report this winter before Susan Kinsella, a member of that body, made a presentation to the board of education last week.
Among the firm’s recommendations were that Sag Harbor continue its pattern of replacing one bus every year and two buses every other year unless other additional needs arise; place cameras and GPS equipment on every district vehicle; provide additional training, restructured compensation and “safety awards” for drivers and consider ways to eliminate the need for four afternoon buses provided by contractors, among others.
Many of the suggestions carried additional costs, with the exception of one that would eliminate the need for contracted bus services from an outside company — moving the Pierson Middle-High School start time five minutes earlier and combining its afternoon bus run into one for the entire district, elementary school included. That move would save the district more than $300,000, the consultant concluded, because that’s what it typically costs to contract for those outside buses.
The firm also recommended Sag Harbor “place a few selected bus stops in the village to accommodate the transportation needs of students presently walking over one-half mile to school,” which the district did following the successful May 2018 referendum extending busing to more students. The firm also suggested Sag Harbor use a specific software program to manage routes, which the district already uses, and it suggested the district continue to seek shared services agreements, which is ongoing, school officials have said.
At last week’s meeting, board member Susan Lamontagne said she was frustrated and thought the board did not get what it thought it was going to get from the consultant.
“I thought we were going to get some out-of-the-box thinking by getting some fresh eyes, and that didn’t happen,” she said.
School board president Diana Kolhoff said she was also “expecting some of those same things,” but said more research may need to be done by the district itself. “Anything that is more cultural … would have to be done by survey,” she said.
On Wednesday, superintendent Katy Graves said the report provided valuable factual reporting that “provided a frame of reference for what we do.”
“It’s a starting point,” Ms. Graves said. “…I think what the board would like is a more humanistic look.”
She also said an appendix to the consultant’s report, which has not been posted online but is available for review in the district office, contains a lot more information.
“We have more questions that need answering,” Ms. Graves said. “I think that may come back to the committee and the district to continue answering those questions.”
School Board Candidate Packets Available
In other schools news, those interested in running for a seat on the Sag Harbor School Board can kick off their campaigns by picking up candidate paperwork in the district office or downloading it from the district website, sagharborschools.org.
Three seats will be up for election, including two full terms and a 13-month term created by the resignation of a board member earlier this year.
Candidate petitions with at least 25 eligible signatures are due in to the district clerk by Monday, April 22 at 5 p.m. The budget vote and board elections are May 21.