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Administrator in Houston district takes the blame for widespread transportation problems

Sept. 28, 2018
Houston Independent School District Chief Operating Officer Brian Busby says he is working to correct problems that have arisen after the district overhauled its student transportation system.

The administrator responsible for overseeing student transportation in the Houston school district has acknowledged that multiple mistakes under his leadership have contributed to widespread busing problems that have caused thousands of students to miss class time and arrive home later than expected.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Houston Independent School District Chief Operating Officer Brian Busby concedes that the district’s overhaul of its transportation routing system has been poorly executed and characterized by ineffective planning, inadequate communication and technological glitches.

Busby promises a “back-to-basics” approach to address lingering busing complaints. Last week, he replaced the district’s general manager of transportation.

The school system overhauled the its transportation map this summer, seeking to simplify a complex web of routes and reduce the amount of time students spend on buses.

The rollout of the new system has faltered from the first day of school in late August. Countless parents have complained that children often arrived late to school, some students were not assigned bus routes, drivers were confused about their assignments and district staffers had few answers when contacted through a call center.

Busby says transportation leaders expected glitches during the first week of the rollout, but as issues persisted, the full scope of gaffes came into view. So far, Busby said he has identified several miscues and shortcomings:

•HISD officials had not been reliably tracking which students were eligible to ride buses. The district told the company responsible for electronically engineering the new route map that about 30,000 students were eligible to ride buses. In fact, about 47,000 students are bus-eligible. As a result, maps dramatically underestimated demand for routes and included no routes in certain sections of the city.

•Board members, families, principals and other stakeholders were not adequately consulted or notified about the transportation changes and had  virtually no opportunity to offer feedback.

•The district’s transportation team chose to roll out three major changes at one time: the new routing software; the GPS bus monitoring system; and an ID-card system that tracks when students enter and exit buses. Other districts have phased in those three systems over the course of years, Busby says. None of the three systems was fully operational and reliable as the school year began

Busby, who has drawn plaudits for his management of district facilities following Hurricane Harvey and the district’s nearly $2 billion bond program, says he takes responsibility for the errors.  

District officials will continue to address concerns from parents, Busby says. But the district does not plan to ditch its magnet hub system or dramatically overhaul routes again, choosing instead to refine the existing model in the coming weeks.

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