After starting the school year with hundreds of bus driver positions needing to be filled, there are more transportation troubles for Dallas ISD.
The district cleaned house at the transportation department by firing five top-level managers. It happened while the district is still struggling to get routes fixed and students to school on time.
Dallas ISD has faced numerous setbacks since starting its own busing system this year. Dozens of drivers didn't show up for the first day of school and the man in charge of transportation left for another job.
Still, the district says firing the managers was necessary in order to get the busing system running smoothly. The shake-up happened just five weeks into the school year.
“In order to get things more in line with what our expectations are, changes needed to take place at the leadership level,” said DISD Deputy Superintendent Scott Layne.
The now-fired managers oversaw personnel and routes. They were hired from Dallas County Schools after voters shut down the troubled bus operator. DISD is one of 12 school districts forced to come up with their own busing solutions.
“Bear in mind that we had to hire over 1,000 people in a six-month period,” Layne said. “So there really wasn't any real options for us at that point to hire that many people.”
The district is still short dozens of bus drivers, forcing DISD to consolidate 74 routes. Some full-time drivers are doing doubles routes, meaning means students on those buses are often late to class.
Rena Honea is the president of Alliance-AFT, the union that represents non-administrative DISD employees, which includes the bus drivers and monitors.
“We have to have strong leadership. It needs to come quickly because our kids depend on it. The parents are depending on it,” Honea said. “It's something that voters said, ‘We don't like what's happening now so let's fix it.’ And it’s taking quite a bit of time to do that.”
But the district says its making progress. Substitute drivers are handling many of the 61 open routes while 85 new bus drivers who were hired at job fairs are in the process of getting trained.
As for those open management spots?
“We have people below them who have stepped up,” Layne said.
Thirty new bus drivers are scheduled to start next week. The district says its making allowances for students who arrive late due to bussing problems. The hope is to have the system fully operational by Thanksgiving.