Omaha Busing Audit Identifies Issues with District-Contractor Communications
As recent coverage has highlighted, virtually all public school districts provide some form of busing services to transport their students to and from school. However, due to cost, most districts don’t provide these services in-house. Instead, reports indicate, it is common for schools to contract their transportation needs out to third-party companies. In Omaha, a recent audit identified district-contractor communication issues reportedly affecting the quality of school busing services.
Per a report from the Omaha World-Herald, the Omaha Public Schools School Board recently commissioned an audit of the district’s transportation program. Auditors included “a team of transportation experts from urban districts” throughout the United States. The panel identified areas in which both Omaha Public Schools and its busing contractor, Student Transportation of America, could improve in the future.
As coverage explains, the audit was spurred by complaints made about the school district’s busing services at the start of the 2016/17 school year. A shortage of drivers and reportedly poor planning on the part of OPS meant that the district’s busing network did not run as efficiently as it should have. One of the stated goals of the audit and its recommended improvements is to prevent a similar problem from plaguing district parents, students, and teachers in the future.
Auditors criticized both OPS and Student Transportation of America in their report. The audit indicated that Omaha Public Schools doesn’t have enough oversight over its busing contractor. For instance, auditors recommend that OPS should be more diligent in using random checks to review the backgrounds of contracted drivers.
Specifically, the audit requested, OPS should use these random checks to make sure that Student Transportation of America has required all drivers to pass criminal and driving history checks and complete required training. Currently, OPS reportedly has no system or policy in place to verify that contracted drivers have gone through training or background checks.
In addition to verifying that background checks and required training steps have been completed, auditors also requested more communication between OPS and Student Transportation of America. Reports indicate that the district and its busing contractor didn’t have regular meetings to discuss routes, driver shortages, or other topics before the 2016/17 school year. OPS was criticized for failing to track busing data, for having inefficient bus routes (buses that only a few students rode), and for having no systems in place to recruit new drivers.
The district has said that it is in the process of making changes to improve its busing system.