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Normandy Transportation Services Make Trip Back to Home, No Longer Outsourced
On the first day of the 2017-2018 school year, Normandy students boarded buses bearing the name “Normandy Schools” in bold, black print on the sides. The new insignia marks the return of in-house transportation for the district after three years of outsourcing school bus services.
Valerie Stokes, safety supervisor for the Transportation department at Normandy Schools Collaborative, greeted students as they arrived at the Normandy Kindergarten Center that first day of school. She first came to Normandy in 1992 as a school bus driver and stayed on with the district after it began contracting with First Student. Stokes said she was elated when she learned Transportation was returning as a Normandy operation.
“We can ensure the quality of the services that we’re providing,” she said. “Being in-house it’s like, ‘It’s ours, it’s not theirs.’ In my experience when something is mine, I’m going to take care of it.”
Bus drivers are often the students’ first contact with school staff. The drivers ensure students arrive safely at school and at the bus stop to return home. Because of the importance of this interaction, Dr. Charles Pearson, Normandy Superintendent of Schools, decided last year that it was time to return the services back to Normandy.
“We are working to improve the total experience for Normandy students and their families and that starts with bus drivers,” said Dr. Pearson. “Bus drivers are the first Normandy staff our students come in contact with. Our Board and administration strongly felt the return of this vital service was an important way to improve the overall experience for students, families and staff. There is a certain sense of pride when the new buses with our name on it arrives to pick up our students, who deserve the best.”
Normandy contracted with Transpar to set up the return of services: recruit drivers and staff; secure buses, and plan the transition from an outsourced operation to an in-house one. Another way the Collaborative is ensuring students’ transportation needs are properly taken care of is with the acquisition of a newer fleet of buses. All buses are now less than three years old, air conditioned, and have working video cameras on-board.
The Transportation department has also implemented Zonar, a real-time school bus fleet tracking system which provides instant reports on the location of each bus to help improve efficiency and student safety. Zonar also issues alerts when buses have an operations issue or needs maintenance.
“We can do the best job of transporting students to and from school and other activities in a timely matter,” said Benita Weaver, director of transportation for Normandy Schools Collaborative and a Normandy alumna.
Weaver estimates that this year the department will transport about 2,500 of the Collaborative’s 3,200 students. This is Weaver’s first year serving in her current role and said she manages a knowledgeable team whose common concern is the best interest of Normandy’s students and their families. Both she and Stokes exude a sense of pride in their work; they say working for Normandy is like being a part of an extended family.
“I bleed red and green,” said Weaver, Normandy Class of 1987. “Being a Viking and coming back here, it felt like I was coming back home.”