School bus routes draw complaints

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Richmond County school bus riders sitting three to a seat and standing in aisles might be the lucky ones.

Others have watched their bus pass them by, leaving them to wait by a curb for 30 minutes so the driver can unload at the school, then come back for them, a parent and transportation council member reported Wednesday.

Students waiting for bus 9825 have stood in the rain and arrived at school so late they missed breakfast, said Rita Washington, who has a senior and a sophomore at Hephzibah High School. It's not safe for children to wait outside that long, and when the bus returns for a second route, it carries only about a dozen students, wasting costly fuel, she said.

Making things worse, bus driver Sallie Thomas said that while students wait outside, standby drivers sit idle in break rooms, their buses parked.

Mrs. Washington and Mrs. Thomas spoke out during a monthly meeting of Richmond County schools' Transportation Council, a 14-member panel of parents, school bus drivers, Transportation Department heads, administrators and school board members. The council was formed as part of the settlement of a federal lawsuit between the drivers union and the school board and met for the first time in January.

School officials downplayed their complaints, saying an automated computer program called Edulog, coupled with global positioning systems, will soon have bus routes running much smoother. Council Chairman and Executive Director of Special Schools and Programs James Thompson, who tried in earnest to wrap up the meeting within an hour, stopped Mrs. Washington mid-spiel, saying she should tell parents to "please bear with us."

"We have a plan in place, shortly, and it's just going to take a little time to work it out," Mr. Thompson said.

But while Mr. Thompson spoke of a short wait, Transportation Director Michael Shinn said outside the meeting that he couldn't place a time frame on when the system will be fully operational. Software must be installed, and drivers need training, both of which are ongoing, he said.

"A program like this, you don't just say, 'Here it is,' " Mr. Shinn said.

The new system will integrate school records to let bus drivers know how many students they're picking up, allowing for adjustments if a route has more children than seats, Mr. Shinn said. The department will be able to electronically track buses' progress, pinpointing their location on a route and the times they hit specific stops.

Why the system isn't already in place is unclear.

According to a recent audit by MGT of America, Richmond County bought Edulog eight years ago, but without support from the technology department to install programs and train staff, it couldn't be used. In 2005 the school board budgeted $1,500 for training and $4,750 for an annual licensing contract fee, then budgeted money for the licensing fee again in 2006, but none of the money was spent.

Asked about the MGT report, Mr. Thompson said he'd check into it and call back, but he hadn't done so by day's end. Schools spokesman Louis Svehla said he couldn't say Wednesday how much the program cost or why it hasn't been used, but he planned to meet with financial and transportation officials today.

Mr. Shinn said Richmond County had an old version of Edulog before, and an updated version obtained at the urging of Superintendent Dana Bedden, will allow for GIS mapping. He attributed overcrowding problems in Hephzibah to students moving during the summer, beefing up rider numbers on certain routes.

"You don't really know where it stands until school starts," he said.

Assistant Transportation Director Jimmie Wiley told Mrs. Washington such glitches are typical during the first weeks of a school year. "History has led us to believe that after Labor Day, everything balances out," he said.

Mrs. Washington disputed that after the meeting, saying overcrowded buses have been a problem for three years.

"The way I got to be on this council is because I was on the phone almost every day with the Transportation Department," she said.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (42) Add comment
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dale88fan
0
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dale88fan 08/21/08 - 06:03 am
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Makes me love Columbia County

Makes me love Columbia County even more---what boneheads!!

jaschild
5
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jaschild 08/21/08 - 06:16 am
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I feel sure this situation

I feel sure this situation will be remedied by Dr Bedden. He is working wonders.

intheknow
16
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intheknow 08/21/08 - 06:25 am
0
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I am sure that Columbia

I am sure that Columbia County has it's own problem.

Bored in GA
2
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Bored in GA 08/21/08 - 06:39 am
0
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Maybe look at the

Maybe look at the Transportation Director...Have some serious short falling there! Does he even know how the NEW Edulog is run! Maybe the whole transportation needs a new LEADER!

pantherluvcik
628
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pantherluvcik 08/21/08 - 07:01 am
0
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Msybe if they started

Msybe if they started answering the phone, they can see where the problem areas are. I've been calling transportation since the first day of school, still haven't talked to anyone. My son rides bus 9828 and he has to stand up most mornings because ours is one of the last stops in the morining. That's not safe by any stretch of the imagination, and needs to be fixed ASAP.

karmakills123
8
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karmakills123 08/21/08 - 07:18 am
0
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You see kingJames..this is

You see kingJames..this is what I was talking about yesterday........................................................

john
934
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john 08/21/08 - 07:27 am
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perhaps the children should

perhaps the children should eat before they go to school. Just a thought. I do agree that standing up is not the right answer. You cant just wait until school starts then figure it out. Some cell phone driver is going to cause a wreck and ther are going to be some hurt kids because they are standing.

I4PUTT
5
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I4PUTT 08/21/08 - 07:30 am
0
0
Is it just me or did I really

Is it just me or did I really hear her say she has a senior and a sophomore at Hephizibah High? She's concerned they missed breakfast at school......Couldn't they walk back to the house, fix their own breakfast and perhaps get in the car and drive themselves to school? Should the government write this article for Ms. Washington?

lifelongresidient
0
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lifelongresidient 08/21/08 - 07:48 am
0
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breakfest at

breakfest at school?!?!?!?!?!?!? hey sorry parent how about teaching your grown children to fix breakfest or make it yourself..hey poor homeowners, now you are feeding the richmond county students, eventually you will be paying for wake-up, clothes pressing and tuck-in servvice

itamazezme
0
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itamazezme 08/21/08 - 07:50 am
0
0
high fuel costs means that

high fuel costs means that young adults who used to drive to school and parents that used to take their children to school are now using the buses more hence the overcrowding. As I tell my kids I already pay for gas for you to ride with the county why should I have to pay double.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 08/21/08 - 08:03 am
0
0
Missed breakfast at school.

Missed breakfast at school. We got ourselves up every morning on time. My mother fixed breakfast every day at home for us and then drove us to school. I beklieve an 11th and 12th grader is old enough to do that without help. If not they must be very lazy or dumb.

karmakills123
8
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karmakills123 08/21/08 - 08:04 am
0
0
missed breakfast = we lost

missed breakfast = we lost out on free food !

getalife
4
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getalife 08/21/08 - 08:15 am
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Edulog was purchased eight

Edulog was purchased eight years ago and has yet to be used? Software is a big cost and should not be purchased until you have a software implementation plan and support personnel in place. This is another cost to the taxpayers that has no return, part of the Charles Larke administration. Hopefully Dr Bedden will stop the purchasing of items that the schools are not prepared to use. Maybe the person that recommended and approved the purchase of the Edulog software should be fired. A total waste of money!!

Little Lamb
44974
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Little Lamb 08/21/08 - 09:01 am
0
0
Perhaps the person who sold

Perhaps the person who sold Edulog to the school system was a relative of Larke or some other muckity-muck in the school system.

KingJames
10
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KingJames 08/21/08 - 10:03 am
0
0
KK123, please give it a rest.

KK123, please give it a rest. I already told you that I agree leadership is a problem in Augusta. And I still say that it contributes to many people deciding to move elsewhere. However, I think that there are usually some transportation problems on the first day of school. These problems usually get worked out early on in the year. The issue with purchasing and then not using software is crazy though. I work in the software development division of a technology company, and I can tell you that a lot of times updated versions of software are released while developers and programmers are already working on the next updated version that will be released at a later date. If the transportation department bought a product 8 years ago and never used it, then they should just trash it because the version probably can't be upgraded to the latest version of that product. Now that was a waste of money.

concernedparent2
0
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concernedparent2 08/21/08 - 10:28 am
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I think the message is about

I think the message is about the safety of the kids and the lack of leadership of the transportation department of RCBoE. Yes, ALL schools in GA offer free breakfast to ALL students reguardless of income. It is through the Federal goverment- the food would be provided reguardless the bus was there or not.
Not to get on a soap box, just saying.
My mother always had breakfast for us also. But one of my kids will not eat till he eats to school, it is the only time he is able to talk freely with his friends and visit for a few minutes.

griesella
0
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griesella 08/21/08 - 10:36 am
0
0
I am envious of the "standing

I am envious of the "standing in the rain". Who is getting all this rain?...not at my house.

concernedparent2
0
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concernedparent2 08/21/08 - 10:38 am
0
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I think that was that one day

I think that was that one day last week when it rained for 10 mins.!

john
934
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john 08/21/08 - 10:43 am
0
0
how convenient for you and

how convenient for you and your children.

concernedparent2
0
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concernedparent2 08/21/08 - 10:47 am
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John- to whom are you

John- to whom are you speaking?

concernedparent2
0
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concernedparent2 08/21/08 - 10:56 am
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It is convenient for me. I

It is convenient for me. I have not problem with my children eating at school if that is what they chose. I will also make breakfast if they want. With my husband deployed for the last 14 months it does get very crazy around our house and I have no problem letting them sleep a few extra minutes if that is what they need. I also am at their school 3 or 4 days a week tutoring and helping. Running them to appts. and other things that need to be done. So, yep free breakfast- we're there on occassion.

john
934
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john 08/21/08 - 11:07 am
0
0
Thank you both for your

Thank you both for your service. I just think that when complaining about the bus service, missing breakfast will not garner much sympathy. Perhaps an other example should have been used.

griesella
0
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griesella 08/21/08 - 12:38 pm
0
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What happened to sitting down

What happened to sitting down to breakfast with the family..An extra few minutes of sleep can be better resolved by going to bed a few minutes earlier. Scrambling eggs and making toast, a bowl of cereal, nothing hard about that. As far as using it to talk with friends, school breakfast might not be the best time for that. They should be preparing for the school day.

getalife
4
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getalife 08/21/08 - 12:45 pm
0
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If the maintenance agreement

If the maintenance agreement and licensing fees are not paid each year on the Edulog, then it might not be usable or installable? It looks as if the licensing fee is a $4,750.00 a year, which may have been paid some years and is a total waste of taxpayer's money if the software is not installed and used!! How much did the software cost initially??

iwannaknowthetruth
0
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iwannaknowthetruth 08/21/08 - 02:53 pm
0
0
I want my free breakfast, and

I want my free breakfast, and I want it now!!!!!!

disssman
6
Points
disssman 08/21/08 - 03:49 pm
0
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Dear Dr. Bedden, All the

Dear Dr. Bedden, All the software in the world is not going to transport one child to school. Buying automation to tell you where a bus is located will not fill the busses. This problem should have been anticipated,long before school started, by one of your high paid deputies. I am sure they are aware that gasoline is extremely costly and should have realized that hundreds of dollars could be saved by having the kids use the bus. I am sure if you look where they are storing the hundreds of broken computers (they have over 9000 computers) you probably will find the purchased software. But don't worry, it was purchased using taxes and we all know the rules used by RCBOE, nothing is to expensive or too good for the taxpayer, And if you mess up and find out your idea won't work, just forget it and get on with something else because its only tax money.

No_Longer_Amazed
5143
Points
No_Longer_Amazed 08/21/08 - 05:22 pm
0
0
Last year, along with many

Last year, along with many other people, I praised Dr. Bedden for getting the GPS systems installed on every bus in the RCBOE Transportation Department. Now we are told it does not work? If "In 2005 the school board budgeted $1,500 for training and $4,750 for an annual licensing contract fee, then budgeted money for the licensing fee again in 2006, but none of the money was spent," where is that money? Also, I sent an e-mail to Assistant Transportation Director Jimmie Wiley about a week ago asking where I can find a map/list of all the authorized bus stops and have not received a reply.

iwannaknowthetruth
0
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iwannaknowthetruth 08/21/08 - 06:39 pm
0
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no longer amazed, imagine

no longer amazed, imagine that, but bedden is doing GREAT things, unfortunately, no one can tell me just what those GREAT things are. Sure isn't the prerformance oo the school system.

No_Longer_Amazed
5143
Points
No_Longer_Amazed 08/21/08 - 07:40 pm
0
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iwannaknowthetruth: I am one

iwannaknowthetruth: I am one of the first to criticize, but the bonus was not Dr. Bedden's fault as the RCBOE put it in his contract. They apparently did not include specific standards, so he just had to be still breathing at the end of the year to qualify for the bonus. What bothers me is that I believe it is a 3-year contract, so it looks like he will automatically get the same bonus in 2009 and 2010.

iwannaknowthetruth
0
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iwannaknowthetruth 08/21/08 - 08:14 pm
0
0
nla, I don't really care what

nla, I don't really care what he makes, that's a done deal. But I am tired of everyone singing his graces, and everything continues to go downhill, "but more money will solve the problem". BS!!! Hard work, Hard choices will solve the problem and hiring a mouth piece is not either!!!!

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