Tuesday, March 12, 2013

LWSD Transportation Department Scores 100% Efficiency Rating

Redmond, Wash. – The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has released itstransportation efficiency ratings for school districts around the state. The Lake Washington School District’s rating was 100 percent. School district transportation operations were evaluated for efficiency using a statistical process. Among the data included in the analysis is the number of students transported between home and school and the location of each school bus stop and related destinations.  Read More >>
As part of their analysis, OSPI determines the expected allocation of funds that would be needed to pay for the transportation operations of that district. OSPI calculated that the standard cost to pay for the current routes and numbers of students transported by LWSD would be about $8.1 million. The next calculation adjusts for the district’s past actual expenditures to predict what the district will spend on that program. In this case, because of Lake Washington’s proven level of efficiency, that number was adjusted downward to $7.7 million.
“Our transportation department staff members have the experience and training to run our transportation system cost-effectively,” noted Janene Fogard, deputy superintendent for operational services. “They continue to improve operations while balancing student service, efficiency and safety.”
The transportation department has focused on continually improving its efficiency, particularly when the department budget was cut for the 2009-10 school year in response to state budget cuts, based on community input. The result over the years has been fewer bus routes and consolidation of bus stops.
“There is a trade-off in the level of service for this efficiency,” noted Fogard. “We have to balance efficiency with ensuring reasonable lengths of bus rides and walks to bus stops. We also have to ensure there is no compromise to safety.”
This greater efficiency has ensured that Lake Washington School District spends less per student on transportation than the eight other districts in the state with more than 20,000 students except for Kent School District, according to financial data compiled by OSPI. Lake Washington spent $282.73 per student in 2010-11 (the latest year for which comparable data is available) compared to the $396.80 average for large districts. Kent spent $276.91 per pupil. Lake Washington’s expenditures also compare favorably with smaller school districts nearby, which range from the $274.14 per student spent by a more urban Bellevue to $411.96 by Issaquah.
To ensure efficiency, the department employs the most widely-used specialized school bus routing software, Versatrans. All transportation office staff are fully trained in its use and receive updated training periodically. Transportation staff members attend quarterly meetings to share best practices with transportation staff from other school districts in the area that use the same software.
Six transportation department staff members, who average 26 years of experience each, manage approximately 595 bus routes and up to 35 additional field trip or athletic team trips a day. Among those 595 routes per day are specialized routes that serve some special education students as well as routes to get morning elementary band students to band practice and to school. The department also provides service to over 200 homeless students under the federal McKinney-Vento Act. Transportation is constantly changing as the needs of students and schools change. Staff members maintain the routing system, respond to bus stop questions/changes, address parent inquiries and provide new and ongoing training for drivers.

1 comment:

Susan Wilkins said...

Being familiar with school bus transportation here in Redmond and having recently written about how bus transportation could be improved, it seemed odd that the OSPI would rate the Lake Washington Transportation Department at 100% efficient.

I visited the OSPI website and reviewed the supporting documents and reports that were posted with the school district transportation department efficiency ratings. The OSPI’s Efficiency Detail Report for the Lake Washington School District listed LWSD as having 12,924 basic riders and 1,210 special ed riders. (Total bus riders: 14,134) It also noted that the district had spent $7,532,315 on transportation in the 2011-2012 school year and determined that the school district’s relative efficiency rating was 100%. The Lake Washington School District has only 25,400 students. The idea that more than 14,000 students ride buses to school each day is hard to believe.

It quickly became clear that the student count totals were wrong – the number of students riding district school buses was far higher than it should have been. School districts count students riding in the morning and students riding in the afternoon to get trip totals for reimbursement purposes. The OSPI was supposed to add the morning and afternoon trip totals together and then divide by 2 to get the average number of riders. So 12,924 basic riders and 1210 special riders actually meant total daily trips, not total number of riders.

The number of riders for Fall 2012 should have been:
Yellow bus: 6964
Metro bus: 1078
Special Ed/ELL/Gifted/Preschool: 454
Actual Total: 8496

The OSPI appears to have used total trips instead of total riders when calculating efficiency ratings for all school districts in the state. (An interesting example: Bethel School District’s Efficiency Detail Report from the OSPI listed 17,613 basic riders and 1,470 special riders, but the district has only 17,444 students. Their efficiency rating was also 100%) Little surprise that of 288 school districts in the state, 203 were rated 100% efficient. When the number of riders is correctly reported, the efficiency ratings for all of the school districts will certainly drop significantly.

The Lake Washington School District, as well as most of the other school districts in the state, could certainly find ways to improve efficiency in their transportation departments. They should start looking at ways to improve, even before the OSPI recalculates their efficiency ratings.