October 22, 2014
Final Reports
San Mateo Courts - Civil Grand Jury

2002 Report:

Pupil Transportation Services Contract

Summary | Background | Findings | Conclusions | Recommendations| Response

Summary:

The San Mateo County Grand Jury finds that the San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools has not effectively managed the Pupil Transportation Services contract for the contractor's compliance. In spite of the fact that the contractor, A&E Transportation Services, is not in full compliance, the six-year old contract has been extended without competitive bidding, putting children with special needs at risk.

Issue: Does the San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools provide adequate monitoring and oversight of the transportation system used by the County's Special Education Program?

Background:

The Grand Jury investigated the San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools management of the Pupil Transportation Services contract because compliance bears on the safety of the transported children.

The San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools is responsible for the establishment and maintenance of special schools and classes for handicapped pupils residing within San Mateo County. Examples of the children's conditions are: Severely Multiply Handicapped, Limited Intelligence Functioning, Orthopedically Handicapped, Severe Disorder of Language, Severe Behavior Disorder, Severely Emotionally Disturbed, Hearing Impaired and Visually Impaired. The Superintendent of Schools is responsible for transporting all enrolled students to classes. This includes transportation to programs and classes operated by the Superintendent (Special Education and Regular Education) as well as therapy (Mental Health and California Children Services), Vocational Education, and the Outdoor Education Program.

The San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools contracts with A&E Transportation Services (A&E) to provide transportation at 67 school sites for approximately 875 children. There are presently 347 routes that are being driven daily. There are currently 87 buses and 89 drivers employed by A&E.
A&E provides their drivers with all the school bus training as required by law. Newly hired drivers undergo CHP and fingerprinting background checks. In certain cases FBI background checks are conducted. Driving and medical tests are performed by the CHP every six years thereafter.

Information was gathered through documents and interviews with the San Mateo County School Superintendent, San Mateo County Special Education Transportation Coordinator, Local Management and Drivers of A&E as well as their Fleet Maintenance Supervisor. Tours were made of the A&E facilities and the CHP background procedures were reviewed.

Findings:

In 1996, the San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools put the Pupil Transportation Services contract out to bid. A three-year contract was awarded to A&E Transportation. The contract can be extended yearly if the San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools so wishes. This specific contract has been extended a numerous times.

A&E is not in compliance with the contract, which requires among other things:

  • Buses be replaced that are over seven years old
  • Buses have tinted windows
  • Buses have am/fm radios (music is a calming tool for some types of special needs students)
  • The proper number of spare buses be available

The routes are routinely over an hour long and sometimes as much as two hours. There are no bathroom breaks for these long routes and no bathroom facilities on the bus.

Bus drivers receive information about a student's particular needs from route sheets provided by the San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools. According to the drivers, those sheets don't always contain enough information.

There is no formalized complaint or feedback procedure at either the County or contractor level. Also, background checks are not performed beyond the initial check.

Conclusions:

The San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools has not been overseeing the performance of the contract. The San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools should not extend the Pupil Transportation Services contract beyond the contract period. The contract should put be out to competitive bid prior to the end of each contract period.


Recommendations:

1.The San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools should put the Pupil Transportation Services contract out to competitive bid prior to the end of the current contract period.

2. The San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools should immediately create a system to periodically monitor the contractor to enforce compliance with the contract.

3. Whenever possible, routes should be kept to under an hour long. Alternately, routes that are longer than one hour should have a scheduled bathroom break at a school facility.

4. The San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools should ensure that information relevant to the safety and comfort of the children, including the observations of the bus drivers, is included on the route sheets given to drivers.

5. The San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools should annually survey parents, guardians, and teachers about the level of service to identify any problems that need to be corrected.

6. The San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools should establish a formal feedback procedure in which: a) complaints are forwarded to the contractor for response and proposed corrective action, and b) written records of complaints and responses are maintained, and c) meetings are held with the contractor, at least semi-annually, to review complaints and resolutions measures.

7. The next contract should provide that background checks be performed at least every three years on all drivers to the extent allowed by law.
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Response
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