Schools considering privatizationPublished 4:20pm Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Cassopolis Public Schools are considering all avenues when it comes to budget cuts for the upcoming school year, including privatizing transportation for the district.
During a special meeting of the board Monday evening, representatives from First Student, a national school bus transportation service, presented a possible bid for privatizing transportation employees in the district. Dennis Ryan, manager for First Student in Niles, and Doug Meek, area general manager for First Student, discussed several topics that would come into effect should the district decide to privatize with First Student.
“I was contacted by Rosa Haines,” Meek said during the meeting, saying the board wanted more information and facts on privatizing.
Board Treasurer George Calvert posed the question of whether the district’s drivers would be hired into First Student or not.
“That is true, with one caveat,” Meek said. “District drivers would become new employees of First Student and would have to meet specific employment requirements.”
According to Meek, current drivers would have to apply and be offered employment. While many drivers would pass the company’s employment requirements, Meek explained that First Student has higher standards than some districts it terms of criminal background checks, which could prevent a driver from receiving an offer of employment.
“We have very few individuals in Michigan where this has become an issue, though,” Meek said.
Julie Blaske, president of the Cassopolis Service Education Association, spoke during the meeting, asking the board to vote against privatizing their service employees and referring them to a letter of agreement.
“The letter of agreement that you have before you outlines concessional wages and/or benefits that our members have agreed to take,” Blaske said to the board. “We ask that you consider the letter of agreement and vote against privatizing your Cassopolis service employees.”
Board trustee Scott Ward responded to uncertainty in the budget cut decisions by saying that though it’s difficult, these issues can’t be ignored, left to just be amended later.
“It’s never been fun or easy (making the cuts),” Ward said. “But unfortunately things have to be decided on now so we don’t have to make more cuts next year. I don’t want to do it or put the community through it again.”
The next meeting of the board of education is slated for 7 p.m. Monday at Ross Beatty Junior/Senior High School.