After NBC 5 Investigates reported bus drivers with Dallas County Schools were racing through red lights and others were making kids late for class, administrators with the Dallas Independent School District are taking new steps to keep the beleaguered bus contractor on a short leash.
The Dallas ISD administration wants to give DCS just a one-year deal that would include only some bus routes while putting more than 150 other routes up for bidding open to other companies. District leaders hope the plan sends a message to the bus company that they expect better service.
"As stewards of the taxpayers money we feel like it's important to look at other options to make sure we are getting the best service at the best price with Dallas County," said Dallas ISD Chief of Operations Scott Layne.
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Layne said if the school board approves the plan the district will open bidding next month for bus service at the district's choice and magnet schools. Meanwhile, Layne's team has negotiated a new one-year deal on the remaining bus routes managed by DCS that allow the Dallas ISD to exit the deal with only 90 days advance notice.
"We feel like it's important that we leave our options open in the event that we possibly look at another service or in the event that we are dissatisfied with their service," Layne said.
The proposed contract also includes tough, new performance measures including a $30 fine for each late bus if DCS fails to meet a 95-percent on-time target.
In a statement, DCS Superintendent Rick Sorrells said his agency is satisfied with the new deal.
"We are pleased with the terms of the agreement. Both DCS and DISD understand that changes to pick-up schedules and routes may be necessary to meet the new performance requirements. DCS is already analyzing the existing routes to determine what changes, if any, need to be made," Sorrells said.
A Dallas ISD chart NBC 5 obtained through an open records request shows DCS drivers were on time only 66 percent of the time during the last school year. This year DCS has provided a new chart showing the on-time rate is 90 percent, though Dallas ISD officials question the accuracy of that data.
Going forward, the Dallas ISD will have direct access to a DCS bus tracking system so they can verify the on-time rate independently.
"We will monitor daily, monthly, all of the on-time arrivals of all of our buses," Layne said.
DCS plans to bid on the Dallas ISD's choice and magnet school routes, so it's possible DCS could hang on to the routes. Because DCS is a government agency, subsidized by Dallas County taxpayers, it has some competitive advantage over private companies.
The Dallas ISD does not have to take the lowest bid. District officials can consider quality of service as well.