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District 58 Explains Busing Contract

Statement on school district's website provides bid information

released a new statement on its website Thursday detailing how it arrived at the decision to award Westway Coach a contract to handle busing duties for districts 58 and 99 in Downers Grove. The statement is below, verbatim, and can also be read here. For recent statements from District 58, click here. For , here. For Westway Coach, here.

 

The statement reads:

 

Today continued to  see improvements with District 58 transportation services; however, there is still work to be done. District 58 officials and Westway Coach will be focusing on the following issues, which we believe will be resolved:

  • Keeping drivers consistent from day to day
  • Immediate communication with drivers
  • Bus route consistency: Pick-up/drop-off times have been inconsistent, pick-ups/drop-offs have sometimes been on the wrong side of road, and the routes simply haven’t been driven in the same manner each day.

It has come to our attention that these issues have called into question our reasons for making the switch to Westway Coach to provide our transportation, and we want to provide details about that process.

For more than two decades, District 58 contracted with First Student (formerly Laidlaw) to provide student transportation. In fact, prior to this contract, the last time this service was bid was 2002--almost 10 years ago.

However, in 2010, the District received a timely request from a vendor (not Westway Coach) to let our contract by bid, which we were bound by school code to honor (see verbatim school code reference below).

Upon receipt of the vendor request, Districts 58, 99 and 68 prepared a bid that requested pricing for each individual district, as well as combined services for the three districts. The bids were individual bids let out by each individual district. In other words, there were three bids, not one joint bid. 

The public bid opening was conducted in January, and bids were received from Westway Coach, First Student, and Illinois Central Bus Company. After reviewing the pricing, it was apparent that Westway Coach was the lowest bidder.  Once the low bidder was determined, the districts did their due diligence by vetting Westway Coach. Cook-Illinois, the parent company of Westway Coach, operates more than 2,000 school buses daily and serves more than 200 school districts. The references were all very positive, and the financial reports of the corporation demonstrated a healthy, capable company with more than 50 years of experience. Based on this information, the recommendation was presented to the Board of Education to award the transportation contract to Westway Coach. The Board voted to award this contract in February 2011.

The bid results for District 58 are summarized below. These are only District 58’s costs. The contract is not combined.  There are three individual contracts for the three individual school districts.

 

2011-12 SCHOOL YEAR

Westway Coach $1,219,953.50

First Student $1,897,958.20

Illinois Central $2,906,049.07

 

2012-13 SCHOOL YEAR

Westway Coach $1,250,452.34

First Student $1,945,407.16

Illinois Central $2,993,230.54

 

2013-14 SCHOOL YEAR

Westway Coach $1,281,713.65

First Student $1,994,042.33

Illinois Central $3,083,027.46

 

TOTAL 3-YEAR CONTRACT

Westway Coach $3,752,119.49

First Student $5,837,407.69

Illinois Central $8,982,307.07

 

It is important to note that although Westway Coach was the low bidder and the contract represented a significant savings for our district, the decision was not based on price alone.  When entering into a contract that involves the safe transportation of approximately 2,000 students, cost is not the foremost concern. The ability of the vendor to carry out the contract is our primary consideration in making the decision, and our vetting effort turned up nothing that would lead us to believe Westway Coach could not service District 58.

Again, District 58 regrets the inconveniences our parents and students have faced this past week. We share these frustrations, and we are committed to working with Westway Coach to resolve the remaining issues as soon as possible.    

 

**REFERENCE: Illinois School Code, (105 ILCS 5/29-6.1) (from Ch. 122, par. 29-6.1):

Contracts for transportation. Subject to Section 6-106.11 of the Illinois Vehicle Code, school boards may enter into contracts for up to 3 years for transportation of pupils to and from school. Such contracts may be extended for up to 2 additional years by mutual agreement of the parties, and thereafter may be extended on a year-to-year basis by mutual agreement of the parties, however no such contract may be extended on a year-to-year basis if a school board receives a timely request from another interested contractor that a contract be let by bid.

(Source: P.A. 84-768.)

Chad D. Walz September 01, 2011 at 06:37 PM
Is Westway in breach of contract yet? Seems to me the #1 service they provide is not being provided effectively.
Cinda K. Lester September 01, 2011 at 06:47 PM
Thank you for the clarification and explanation, District 58. With that said, I have to wonder, EXACTLY what will be done to "work...with Westway Coach to resolve the remaining issues as soon as possible." It seems rather obvious (to me) that there are very easy fixes for the problems at hand - why they haven't been taken care of in a week (and why they weren't handled BEFORE school started) is beyond me. 1- "Keeping drivers consistent from day to day" How hard can this be?? I had the same bus driver all of high school. Why can't they keep a driver on staff from one day to the next? They had plenty of time to ramp up staff for the first day. 2 - "Immediate communication with drivers." Don't they have walkie talkies? CB radios? Phones? How is it that bus drivers are NOT in contact? I know it's illegal to talk on a cell phone in a school zone (can bus drivers talk on their radios?), but come on! 3 - "Bus route consistency" Huh?? Doesn't the nature of a designated route automatically imply that it's going to be the same every day? This is the one that baffles me the most. There has also got to be a better way (than a folded paper map on a driver's lap) for having the driver learn the route and commit to it every day. I'm glad my kids don't take the bus, but it's certainly not fair that the bused kids have missed so much school (and time out of their days!) dealing with faulty busing rather than learning. I hope the Fix-It Plan commences immediately.
Bill September 01, 2011 at 07:08 PM
This really mis-represents the bid results. These are the bids for a Dist 58 stand alone contract assuming the bus company did not get awarded the contracts for D99 and D68. Westway actually bid LOWER on a stand alone contract to D58 than they did for a contract based on serving all 3 districts! This was a bid strategy. Interesting to note that Westway did not do this on the bids to D99 and D68. In fact, Westway bid HIGHER to D68 to make up for the low bid to D58. Here are the bid amounts submitted to serve all (3) districts: 2011-12 SCHOOL YEAR Westway Coach $1,264,563.00 First Student $1,268,041.77 2012-13 SCHOOL YEAR Westway Coach $1,296,177.88 First Student $1,299,742.82 2013-14 SCHOOL YEAR Westway Coach $1,328,581.50 First Student $1,332,236.39 TOTAL 3-YEAR CONTRACT Westway Coach $ $3,889,322.38 First Student $ 3,900,020.98
Jane September 01, 2011 at 07:48 PM
Since we're quoting state statutes, here is the law that requires the District to have on file a copy of each bus drivers permit as issued by the IL Secretary of State. A bus driver operates on a "provisional" permit until completion of the FBI criminal background check. 625 ILCS 5/6 106.12) Sec. 6 106.12. Contracts requiring school bus driver permits. (a) No school district that contracts with any individual, corporation, partnership, association, or other entity to transport students, teachers, or other personnel of that district for compensation shall permit any person to operate a vehicle that requires a school bus driver permit pursuant to that contract if the driver has not complied with the provisions of Section 6 106.1 of this Code and other administrative rules governing the classification, restriction, or licensing of persons required to hold a school bus driver permit. (b) A school district that has a contract of the type described in subsection (a) of this Section shall maintain a copy of the school bus driver permit of any person operating a vehicle that requires a school bus permit. (Source: P.A. 97 224, eff. 7 28 11.) Who is driving the bus?
Elizabeth Major September 01, 2011 at 08:06 PM
Exactly - should have been handled BEFORE first day - they were given the contract like 5 months ago, not during the first week of school. I didn't see buses practicing over the summer in my subdivision. Not only have kids missed out on school, etc.. but teachers, school administrators and parents have lost time in their days having to ride these buses to help straighten out the mess!
Bill September 01, 2011 at 08:12 PM
To be clear, the bids I posted above are just the costs for D58 and were submitted as the cost to provide student transportation to D58 if the bus company was also serving D99 and D68. This was listed as Alt 7,8,9 bids on the bid tabulations. You will see that the District's premium to hire First Student (if First Student served all 3 districts) was actually very nominal.
Maria September 01, 2011 at 09:13 PM
School bus drivers are not permitted to use cell phones, other than communication with emergancy responders (911), a hospital, a physician, a fire dept or a police dept. How can they promise: " Immediate communication with drivers " without breaking the law? http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/documents/062500050K12-813.1.htm
Kent Frederick September 01, 2011 at 11:41 PM
If you read the statute, cellular communication does not include CB radios. The difference is that phone must be dialed, while a person on a radio (CB or otherwise) merely selects a channel frequency and keys the microphone.
Kent Frederick September 02, 2011 at 12:03 AM
Here are some practical issues to consider. 1. If District 58 wants to terminate the contract and give Westway its 30-day notice, that has to be approved by the school board. The school board probably can't simply vote at the next meeting to terminate the contract. It probably has to be put on an agenda that is published prior to a meeting. 2. I would also assume that finding a replacement for Westway would require another bidding process. After all, it was Illinois Central Bus that wanted to bid on the contract. If it became pretty clear that any of the districts were going to terminate Westway's contract, Illinois Central Bus and other bus companies would want a chance to beat out First Student. That's not say another company would get the contract, even if it had a lower bid than First Student. But, bidding procedures have to be followed. 3. From what I've read, Westway hired some of First Student's drivers. So, First Student is probably shorthanded. They may not be able to take over bus transportation is as little as 30 days. 4. Who's to say that First Student would match its earlier bid. It could very well increase its bid, knowing that so many parents want First Student, regardless of the cost. 5. Any time a party terminates a contract, despite clear language, there is a definite chance of litigation. After Scott O'Connell and his legal threats, the board may not be interested in a suit with Westway.
Marla September 02, 2011 at 02:48 AM
Why is it still taking the Puffer School students who take bus #2 and live on Curtiss and Hitchcock Streets (closest to the school of all the stops) no sooner than 35-40 minutes to get home? These streets are located 3-4 blocks away from the school! Were is the "consistency" and "efficiency" in dropping off the students that live the closest proximity to the school first, or. All the other Puffer school buses are following this common-sense rule.
Susan Carroll September 02, 2011 at 01:49 PM
All good points, Kent. As much as people want a simple and immediate resolution to this problem, it's just not there.
Bill September 02, 2011 at 02:10 PM
First Student drivers are union... http://www.teamster.org/content/teamsters-overwhelmingly-approve-first-student-national-agreement Westway drivers are non-union. Which company probably pays a higher hourly wage? Does IL Prevailing Wage Law apply to school bus drivers?
Nick Beam September 02, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Once again, you get what you pay for...
Elizabeth Major September 02, 2011 at 02:49 PM
Day 9 of school..... my son still didn't get picked up this morning until 9 a.m. for Oneill... school begins at 8:50!
Susan Carroll September 02, 2011 at 02:58 PM
It's sad to see the bus problems continue. But I'm happy to see District 58 communicating more. I know it opens you up to hearing from angry people, but we appreciate every bit of info you give us!
Annonymous September 02, 2011 at 03:09 PM
Westway got turned down on the zoning for their planned facility. This is the root of the problem. The real question is why didn't the RFP require a facility? Seems pretty obvious.
Tracy September 02, 2011 at 04:16 PM
2 words...school district...directions come from the school district and those directions were wrong and for a driver that is brand new to the company as well as driving, coupled witht he fact they don't know the area they are sent to...its not gonna happen overnight..it takes time the flow should be a whole lot better by Tues...but no one could do dry runs during the summer because the district didn't release them on time till it was too late...everyone wants to blame Westway but Westway is not the head of this operation...and the bus drivers should be cut some slack because they where all literally thrown out there to learn with faulty directions of tons of dead ends streets no turnarounds going out of the way to get back to where u have to be its all frustating so while I get the parents point of view of their kids being late they should really be a little more sensitive to what the bus drivers are going through...that is all
Chad D. Walz September 02, 2011 at 04:45 PM
Sorry Tracy poor excuse. I saw buses a week before school running routes. Why didn't issues with the routes arise prior to the school year? Maybe the drivers should have made a few more practice runs. Either way Westway has no terminal close to our Village since they lost thier zoning appeal in Lisle. So what now?
Maria September 02, 2011 at 04:52 PM
The Bid Specifications DID require a single terminal location within 5 miles of the District border. Westway's bid indicated they would have a terminal in Lemont or Bolingbrook. At the hearings in Lisle, Westway stated **under oath** that "of course" they had a "Plan B"" in case Lisle did not approve the zoning application.
Elizabeth Major September 02, 2011 at 04:56 PM
I know that at least Oneill's routes were changed this year and if the district gave Westway old routes than shame on them for trying to point the finger to Westway! I also don't think Westway was properly prepared to take on this contract. Whatever the case may be our kids, principals, teachers are the ones paying the price by trying to work this out.... Anyone know if the superintendent has been on a route these past 9 days?
Elizabeth Major September 02, 2011 at 04:58 PM
oops - forgot to include parents - they have been riding routes too :)
Annonymous September 02, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Maria, Lemont and Bollingrook are not within 5 miles. The administrators simply did not validate the facility issue and the community is now paying the price.
Maria September 02, 2011 at 05:05 PM
Tracy - this is not correct. The school district supplies the names and addresses and school destination for the children who are eligible for bus transporation. The bus company determines the routes. The contract was awarded six months ago. They've had entire summer to hire, train and practice routes. The bsu company also has access to last years bus routes - its public information. There is no excuse for not adequately staffing up to perform this contract. Maybe if they paid as much as the other bus companies, they would not have this problem.
Bill September 02, 2011 at 05:13 PM
The school district should post the contract, the bid specifications, Westway's bid package all online - it would answer alot of questions regarding what the school required, the responsiblities of Westway, termination provisions, etc.
John Conrow September 04, 2011 at 03:13 PM
The local First Student drivers are not union. They voted no to Teamsters representation 18 months ago. Westway had planned on a lot of First Student drivers joining them. That did not happen. They are now offering $1,000. to First Student drivers to start with Westway. Westway is importing most of their drivers from their Villa Park and Crestwood terminals every day. the Westway buses that were refused permission to base in Lisle are based now at the Citgo refinery in Lemont. That is why you see so many Westway buses parked in local parking lots during the day.
jim belousek September 10, 2011 at 01:42 AM
no terminal, NO contract. WHO missed that?
Maria September 10, 2011 at 04:45 PM
No drivers, No contract... the Districts ALL (D99, D58, D68) knew that Westway had not provided the list of drivers prior to the start of school. Doesn't take a HS diploma to figure out that Westway would not provide the copies of the bus driver's licenses to the Districts (required by State Law) prior to the start of school because they did not have enough drivers. The Districts should have known there would be a big problem with transportation. Why didn't the Districts insist on Westway filing bus driver licenses prior to the start of school? (i.e - take legal action)

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