Sunday, April 5, 2009

33 of its 1,097 Buses Retrofitted

The air quality in our school buses is miserable and directly contributes to many students getting asthma and other respiratory problems. If you are a parent with a child with a respiratory question, you understand how grave this issue is. If you do not, talk to other parents you know and see if any have children with respiratory issues, have a cup of coffee with them and discuss it. It's a tough, tough burden to bear.

In DeKalb, only 3 percent of the school bus fleet has been retro-fitted with emissions controls. THREE PERCENT! This should be a top priority, but the district is taking its sweet ole time, relying on grants and praying the state steps up (fat chance).

You see, in the DeKalb County School System, it is much more important to have a bloated, wasteful central office than it is to have buses that don't leach diesel fumes into the school bus cabin. David Guillory, and his wife, who also works for DCSS, each make well over $100,000 per year with sweet pensions and bene's, and just happen to be the son-in-law and daughter of former board member Frances Edwards. In fact, the Transportation Department in DCSS is very, very TOP HEAVY and overstaffed.

I "get it" that the school system's administration has a million things to deal with. But retrofitting school buses is an easy no-brainer, and once it's done, it's done. It may and should be categorized a capital imporovement and qualify under SPLOST. And there are resources right here. The Centers for Disease Control is located in DeKalb, as is the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. DeKalb should and could be a leader in this area.

But in what area is the Dekalb County School System a leader in???

Students exposed to toxic bus exhaust fumes
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday, April 05, 2009

Most other metro Atlanta school districts want to retrofit their buses, both to improve air in the cabin and outdoors.
DeKalb County School System retrofitted 33 of its 1,097 buses and is seeking money to do more, said David Guillory, the district’s executive director of transportation.
Last year the district sent two buses — one retrofitted, the other not — to the state Capitol to demonstrate to legislators the importance of providing matching funds to allow schools access to federal money.
This year, various grant programs are being offered that cover 100 percent of the retrofitting costs.
Guillory said DeKalb will be applying.

Air in older buses is dirtier; a health risk
Students who ride older school buses that haven’t been retrofitted with emissions controls are being exposed to diesel particulates and gases.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says tiny diesel particles pose a significant health risk because they lodge in the lungs. Children, because their lungs are still developing, and all people with asthma, other respiratory problems, heart and lung disease are at greatest risk.
The EPA has determined that regularly breathing diesel exhaust is a likely lung cancer hazard and that it also can damage lungs in other ways.
“Parents need to be aware that the bus exhaust can cause some problems, or make their child’s asthma worse,” said Randy Baker, chairman of the respiratory therapy program at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, where researchers are studying school bus idling and diesel particulates.

Children’s School Bus Exposure Study
Pollution from older diesel vehicles has health implications for everyone, especially children. By working together, we can reduce pollution from public school buses -- making sure that school buses are also a clean way for children to get to school. Clean School Bus USA brings together partners from business, education, transportation, and public-health organizations to work toward these goals:
-Encouraging policies and practices to
eliminate unnecessary public school bus idling.
-Upgrading (“
retrofitting”) buses that will remain in the fleet with better emission-control technologies and/or fueling them with cleaner fuels.
Replacing the oldest buses in the fleet with new, less-polluting buses.


Cerebration said...

To go back and review the bloat in the administration, re-read one of the older posts here

Read the whole post and all the comments - it's one of the most enlightening conversations we've ever had here.

ps -- there are 3 people earning over 100k in transportation alone - and they can't seem to get more than 3% of our buses retrofitted to improve air in the cabin - for the children.

Toney Blackmon (Transportation) $113,094.00
Michael Hall (Transportation) $112,994.00
David Gillory (Transportation) $113,106.00

Gillory's wife works in "Information" -

Philandrea Gillory (Information) $113,094.00

Cerebration said...

For some interesting info - and a sample letter to send the superintendent - check out this blog:

Anonymous said...

If Blackmon, Hall and Guillory were making in the 70's or 80's per year, as they should, we could retrofit more buses every year. How in the heck has the Crawford Lewis/Marcus Turk Cwentral Office administration allowed there three different pencil pushing bureaucrats making well abover $100,000 per year in the Transportation Dept. alone????

Cerebration said...

Right on, Anon. Again, re-read the Potato Head thread by Kim and Ella - it's chock full of shocking salaries... Especially when compared to similar positions with the State of GA. There are direct reports to the Governor who don't make this much.
Go figure...

Anonymous said...

What do Toney Blackmon, Michael Hall, David Gillory do with all their time, because once school starts, the transportation side slows down considerably. They are really busy in June, July & August, but then their office slows down.

And they sure don't do anything to encourage kids to walk or bike to school.

Anonymous said...

They laugh all the way to the bank with our money.

Molly said...

With 3 people in transportation earning over 100K, you would expect that the buses would be retrofitted. You would also expect that bus routing would be done using mapping programs that the county already owns to maximize efficiency and reduce costs. Routing is still done by hand, because after purchasing the mapping software no one in transportation has been trained in how to use it. Wasted dollars follow wasted dollars in DeKalb county.

Anonymous said...

Son of awcomeonnow with a few more questions.

What's the current enrollment for the Dekalb County School system? We have 1,037 buses, isn't the enrollment around 93,000?

I'd be curious if there were any decade by decade record for Dekalb showing the enrollment vs the number of buses owned.

The most interesting figures would be for 1970, because that was prior to when M-To-M and the magnet schools came around. All of Dekalb's schools were K-7 feeding into a 8-12 High School. Many of the schools were located right in the middle of neighborhoods, or next to population centers. I'd be curious if Dekalb had anything approaching the current ratio of
1 bus for 89.6 students enrolled in the school system.

I think that much of what has happened in the last 40 years has worked very effectively as a smokescreen for contract procurements, particularly in transportation. And yes, I'm speaking about the 27 year long desegregation suit.

Since 1997, with M-to M ending, the powers that be managed to keep the contracts a churning on buses by:
1. Theme schools. Elementaries that derived their attendance from neighboring elementaries, like a
downsized high school feed. Requires bus purchases.

2. Insanely placed middle and high schools. Far from any actual homes in their attendance areas
Avondale, Stone Mountain, Bethune, Columbia, Miller Grove, MLK. There's probably more to the list, but in every case, more buses needed to be purchased.

3. Closed High Schools converted to middle schools.
Extreme case- Cross Keys/ Seqouyah. But the same logic applies to Peachtree/ Dunwoody,
Tucker/Henderson, Druid Hills/Shamrock, and Lakeside/Henderson.
Prior to conversions, many kids could walk to school through all 12 grades. Now, during some part of their schooling a bus will be required. I'm sure that makes some people in the front office very happy (and has for decades).

Could there be the possibility that such large contracts opens the door for say, kickbacks? Never know until someone in investigations in Georgia grows
a set . Won't say what (family viewing).

Cerebration said...

Say, wasn't Paul Womack on the board back then? Why don't you call him and ask him these questions?

Anonymous said...

Son of awcomeonnow reporting

I know it sounds cowardly, but I'm not going to be the one who questions any of the old guard.

I got real close to the flame
regarding local politics back when, and there's some scary things that can happen when you do so.

Sooooo... I report the end results of occurrences.

What I've witnessed over the years in Dekalb and other locations is continual justifications of decisions that are ultimately harmful.
When you back away from the situation and see off in the distance who made the money, then
what made no sense before suddenly does so. What you thought was incompetence becomes something else entirely.

When things go wrong, and you have enough history under your belt to know that it's a repeat performance, there's a reason why.

My role in my postings is this:
To point out the situations where the opportunity might present itself for unethical and
uncaring individuals to enrich themselves and others. If I can maybe help in these situations, maybe someday they might quit occurring. Can only hope.

pscexb said...

SoA, plz sign up for a gmail account in Google. It will make it easier for me to recognize your posts... :)

Current enrollment for DCSS is around 99,000. To use a term mentioned at several meetings, it has 'stabilized' over the past few years. Per the demographers report, our enrollment through 2016 'should' be about 100K, plus or minus 2K.

This 'suggests' that DCSS should have enough seats though there may be a few 'hot spots' to crop up over time. I personally don't care for ES over 1000 students and could 'rationalize' another ES in East DeKalb along the I-20 corridor outside I-285.

It would be interesting to see the ratio of buses to students over the years. I do recall it was higher a few years ago prior to the 'tiered busing' model in place now. I was to say they were able to eliminate over 300 buses with the implementation of this.

It would be interesting to review and discuss the 'small and many' versus 'large and few' models with respect to schools. Essentially that could be a comparison of DeKalb and Gwinnett schools, strictly on the layout.

Anonymous said...

son of is a firm believer in
small and many. I also think that the worst thing that ever happened to Dekalb County occurred back in the 50s when sever seperate systems that answered to their local communities ( and probably priced themselves accordingly) was
If you want a comparison, look at City of Decatur schools.
Their only decision I have trouble with currently is creating the 3rd
and 4th grade academy. It requires more kids that walked to board buses.
Decatur is also a good case study for what happens when wholesale gentrification (often without kids, due to same sex couples) happens to an area.
They now have three fewer elementary schools then they once had, due to the loss of lots of low income students.

Anonymous said...

son of awcomeonow is having some spellcheck problems today. See prior post. Sorry, folks.

Anonymous said...

10:30 am Monday, DCSS Bus Driver coming out of North DeKalb Mall in bus number 1705: Hey buddy, how about paying attention to the road instead of blabbing on your cell phone while driving a county school bus.

Not only is it against policy, it sets a terrible example.

There are great DCSS bus drivers, and then there are others who blab on their cell phone, speed through residential neighborhoods, don't fully stop at stop signs, etc.

Where is the institutional control?