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Concerns over privatization should be voiced now

May 19, 2010 - Dear Editor,

I grew up in Groveland Township, and attended Brandon Schools from kindergarten through to graduation. In a community where relatively few students have the choice to walk to school given long distances and few sidewalks and walking paths, I relied on the school bus system to deliver me to and from school until I began driving myself.

While a private company may appear to be the answer to budget problems, take a moment to look at some of the problems with private companies. Studies of school districts that have switched to private contractors have found problems including: drivers not walking the bus at the end of the route to ensure all students have exited the bus, improper background checks for new drivers, trouble recruiting and retaining drivers, and increased costs of transportation over the course of a contract. These problems, along with others, can be reviewed in articles on-line by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the National Education Association.

†Not only did I ride the buses, my mother is a bus driver for Brandon Schools. I have seen firsthand what a challenging job being a school bus driver is, and the love that†our local drivers put into this job despite its challenges. I have always said I could never do my mother's job, as it takes a level a patience and concentration that few possess. Imagine the worst part of your commute - you're stuck in traffic that's not moving or†there's a blizzard and you can barely see the road in front of you. Now imagine that sitting behind you are 50 kids. One is poking at his friend across the aisle. One has a stomachache. Another one refuses to stay in his seat, and yet another one wants to get off the bus at a friend's house.

†The bus drivers employed by Brandon School District are a phenomenal group of individuals who handle these situations daily, while keeping everyone on board safe. They get to know your children, and often times they get to know you. Of the 28 bus drivers working for Brandon School District, 22 have been in their position for at least 10 years. This kind of dedication to your children and the local community will likely be lost if the busing service is turned over to a private company.

†Please take a few moments to let the school board know that you have concerns about the possible privatization of Brandon's Transportation Department. Encourage them to review the experiences of other districts that have made the switch, and to explore other options for our district.

Shaina Rose

Groveland Township

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