Calvert County Times October 05, 2017 - Page 3

Local News The Calvert County Times Thursday, October 5, 2017 3 Schools’ Transportation System Under Fire The school system was advertising for school bus drivers at the county fair. By Dick Myers Editor A scathing report on school transporta- tion in Calvert County is now ready for public scrutiny. The report, paid for 50/50 by the Calvert County Public Schools (CCPS) and the Board of County Commis- sioners (BOCC) was released to the school board at its Sept. 28 meeting. The report says the school system wastes more than $1 million yearly by failing to schedule prop- erly (have two buses half full instead of one full) and failing to demand better service from the school bus contractors (penalties for non-performance). A synopsis of the almost 200-page report was unveiled by consultant Tatia Prieto of the fi rm Prismatic Services, Inc, which has studied transportation in three quarters of the states. The report was written after a team of consultants visited the schools this spring, including riding on buses and inter- viewing parents, teachers and administra- tors, and conducting an on-line survey that elicited more than 1,000 responses. The report was purchased by the two boards after release of a legislative audit last summer by the Maryland Department of Legislative Services. That report showed the school system paid bus contractors nearly $250,000 more than necessary in fuel reimbursements in 2013 and 2014. The new study concludes that the school system should spend some additional mon- ey so that it in the end it saves considerably more. Recommended is the hiring of an- other bus scheduler and six additional full- tine replacement drivers. That would cost Exelon to Move Emergency Center to Pennsylvania By Dick Myers Editor During an incident at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant (CCNPP), Exelon opens the Emergency Operations Facility (EOF) in Barstow. That’s about to change. At their Oct. 3 meeting, the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) gave their blessing to Exelon’s plan to con- solidate EOF functions in Coatesville, PA. According to a memo from Emergency Management Division Chief Alfred Jef- frey, III, the EOF is designed to “coordi- nate the response and recovery efforts to the incident. Both local and state agen- cies report to this facility to coordinate response, share information and produce public messaging. The main function that the EOF serves for Calvert County is the coordination of public messaging per- formed by the staff of the Department of Communications and Media Relations (PIO). The PIO along with PIO’s from St. Mary’s and Dorchester counties coordi- nate the public message to ensure cohesive messaging is disseminated. “ Jeffrey said with the proposed change. “Exelon would like to consolidate the EOF functions for CCNPP and other plants in the state of Pennsylvania into their Coatesville, PA facility and use the EOF in Barstow as an alternate EOF.” Jeffrey said Exelon needed commis- sioner concurrence as part of their request for the change to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The commissioners were told by Jeffrey, “It is my determination that this move will not have any effect on operations in the Emergency Operations Center to an inci- dent at CCNPP. The only challenge would be to staffi ng the PIO position at the EOF in Coatesville, PA for PIO staff. This chal- lenge can be overcome by using available technology by creating a virtual JIC (Joint Information Center) and coordinating all messaging using that tool.” There was minimal discussion by the BOCC before the unanimous concur- rence. Commissioner Vice President Evan Slaughenhoupt, Jr. said, “This is really just making use of available technology by Exelon.” dickmyers@countytimes.net about $233,000 the fi rst year, Prieto said. But the school system could save at least $1.3 million, she concluded, by initiating changes recommended. Prieto told the school board she did not recommend purchas ing buses for the six fi ll-in drivers. She said school systems across the country are having diffi culty re- cruiting school bus drivers. The four main problems, according to the report, are: high costs, poor service, un- clear separation (between the contractors and the school system) and lack of data. Prieto said the interviews with admin- istrators consistently showed they had no confi dence in the school buses arriving on time. And, she said, there were no penal- ties for lateness. More than 50 percent of the school administration respondents dis- agreed that buses arrive and depart on time. When comparing the Calvert system to other peer groups and averages across the country, the report concludes a “range of lost opportunity annually” of $2.4 million to $5.5 million.” Prieto admitted that the school system has made some changes since her team vis- ited the schools last year. But she was insis- tent that the report was accurate. She came under repeated fi re during her presentation from school board member William Pha- len. He said he had considerable experience with surveys while working for the U.S. Bureau of Census. He blasted the on-line survey questions – “This is the worst sur- vey I have ever seen!” Prieto said that the report conclusions were not based solely on the online sur- veys. She said they were done at no extra charge to the contract and were used only as support data. Her report did pick up some cautious support from two school board members. “Thank you for shining a light on some- thing that was somewhat cloudy to me,” said board member Tracy McGuire. Board member Dawn Balinski said she was less interested in Phalen’s concerns about the surveys. “We just have to raise the professionalism level of our system,” she said. School Superintendent Dr. Daniel Curry said the school system’s transportation de- partment will review the report and deliver their reaction in a month. Curry, in a prepared statement, said, “We contracted with an outside agency for a fresh perspective. We expected recom- mendations for areas in need of improve- ment, and we are ready to move forward.” BOCC Vice President Evan Slaughen- houpt, Jr. said the two boards would have a work session on the consultant’s report in November. He said he is looking forward to hearing the school system’s response. 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