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Letter to the Editor: Timing is everything

On Monday, Aug. 26, we began our school year. Central office staff was asked to be at two schools each. We debriefed the morning around 11 a.m. Transportation had reported that all buses were on time for the morning routes. As we had been communicating, we said there would be issues the first few days until traffic patterns settle into a new routine.

Chris Miller interviewed me around 1:30 p.m. about the day. I stand by what I said at that point, “Great start of school.” We had business leaders, school board members, city, county officials and Rep. Wayne Sasser at multiple sites to welcome the students. This was certainly a great way to start a new school year.

Later that day we were on the radio, again, afternoon buses had not run. Same story, great start!

The issues we had began at our first pickup sites that afternoon. Aquadale and Locust traffic was so heavy our buses could not get out on time. In addition, we had students that had not registered for a bus route. The state transportation policy prevents us from just stopping at a stop not designated in our TIMS software. This created additional wait time.

We asked and sent home numerous messages about registering for a bus route. This delayed the pickup at the second site.

In addition, the Stanfield buses had issues getting out of the lot. Therefore, our second tier was behind at some sites 45 minutes. This is when the wheels fell off the bus (metaphorically). Stanfield began calling parents and stayed until every child was home.

Unfortunately, after 7 p.m. for one student. I was on the phone with this grandfather and so was the transportation department. We all apologized and took measures to ensure this would not happen again.

We transport over 4,200 students on 66 buses and thousands of miles each day. There will be issues, hopefully not to the extent Monday night.

I have apologized for this mishap and we have taken steps to see it does not happen again. We are not alone. I talk with surrounding district superintendents, we all say the same thing. The first week will not represent our best efforts.

CMS had their last student dropped off at 8:30 p.m., Monday, Cabarrus, Union, had late drop-offs and missed pickups. We simply cannot predict all the issues the first day.

The newspaper did accurately report a great start, as the article was done prior the afternoon route. We did correct and publicly apologize for the mishap.

As of Thursday we had all buses back in by 5:28 p.m.

We will continue to monitor and adjust. Our longest route is a high school route at one hour and 28 minutes, according to our GPS tracking system. If this is incorrect, please call our central office.

Our organization is not perfect. We make mistakes as any organization does. It is what we do to correct those mistakes that we should focus on.

Again, our sincere apologies. We do value students, parents and the public trust.

Dr. Jeff James

Superintendent,

Stanly County Schools