RCSD audit recommends fixes for late buses, policy issues

Audit addresses problems with RCSD transportation

Audit addresses problems with RCSD transportation

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — For over two years, the Rochester City School District has been struggling with a bus driver shortage. And it’s not getting any better. A new internal audit found that in February alone, over 1,000 buses were late. Some were only late by about 15 minutes. Others were two hours behind schedule.

The audit said that one bus in particular was found to be three hours behind. 

To help fix these and several other issues, RCSD’s audit committee — part of the school board — gave the board and superintendent 19 recommendations. Audits are conducted routinely to make sure things are running smoothly.

In RCSD’s transportation department, things were not running as planned. The audit found the district to be lacking or slacking on several policy areas, including collecting complaints, student safety, and driver discipline.

One big area for improvement was updating these policies. The audit said RCSD’s student safety protocol is from 2017, and there is no staff discipline procedure in effect. 

Outdated systems is another area of concern. The audit lists that billing is still done by hand, and has a high risk for error. The current list of drivers is incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate. Because of those errors, at least one driver wasn’t being drug tested, which state law requires for drivers who hold a CDL license. 

Transportation complaints are also taken down by hand, which, according to the audit, makes following up a big challenge. 

“We want to make sure we have a better complaint process so we’re tracking data and information effectively,” District Clerk Kallia Wade said to board members. 

Families tell News10NBC their biggest issue is buses falling behind schedule, which the audit supports. 

One mom anonymously told News10NBC she has a kindergartener and second-grader in the district. 

“My childrens’ school starts at 7:15, all last week they have been to school by 9, 9:30,” she said. “They know the ongoing issue with the bus but my kids have been tardy every single week. It’s not like they’re marking it ‘Tardy: excused.’ So it is counting against them.”

She said they recently got a new bus driver. Since the switch, the mom said the new driver is no longer honoring their previous bus stop, but nobody told her. 

“The bus has been picking them up down the block in front of an empty house,” she said. “And I have a baby, and its winter, and [when I call to ask where the bus is] you’re telling me every 20 minutes, every 30 minutes, ‘Oh another 30 minutes, oh he came.’ No he didn’t. ‘Oh, he came, we seen it on the GPS two times.’ Where? I’ve been looking out the window for two hours. ‘Oh, he came down the street.’ Why? ‘Well it looks like that’s the bus stop.’ When was this changed, and when was I going to be notified?”

The mom of two said that because one of her children is in kindergarten, she’s required by RCSD to be there for pickup and drop-off. The late buses have forced her to make other arrangements. 

​”It’s caused me to be late to work,” she said. “At this point, like I said, I’ve had to figure out other arrangements, because I’m – I’m gonna lose my job.”

Superintendent Carmine Peluso said at the board meeting the district is stretched thin, with nearly 27,000 students requiring busing each day. 

“The bus driver shortage is a real issue that we’re all struggling with,” he said. “So if we have people call in sick or we have a couple people go out that’s going to cause longer delays.”

He also gave News10NBC the following statement: 

Ensuring the District runs in an efficient and optimal manner is a top priority for my administration. Internal audits provide the information we need to identify issues and develop mechanisms for improvement. This Transportation Audit is part of our scheduled reviews and highlights challenges that are not uncommon in large school districts. We are approaching resolution to this issue with great urgency and have already begun addressing the recommendations outlined. We will continue to keep the Board of Education and community apprised of our progress.