MNPS Addresses Late Buses, Works To Boost Morale
by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Late school buses, a driver shortage and low morale has plagued Metro School's transportation department. In September, Taffy Marsh was hired to complete a re-organization and turn everything around.
"This has been probably the single greatest thing that has kept our buses at school on time, leaving the fast lane open," Marsh explained about the area where buses with minor mechanical problems are fixed within minutes.
It didn't take long before she realized the buses are not the only thing in the department that needed extra work to be put in the fast lane
"The morale was so low. Sometimes you would leave at the end of the day and you're like...you feel like you're just whipped," Marsh said.
Add to that a driver shortage and buses constantly breaking down. It lead to parents calling Metro's customer service by the hundreds, complaining that their child's bus was late. In fact in October and November of 2012 alone 480 out of 653 buses were at least five minutes late to school in the morning. More than half were late in the afternoon.
"I think I came to it with a different set of lenses. I looked at the problems differently," Marsh explained about her effectiveness.
Marsh first met with employees to listen to their concerns.
"Because I have not been in transportation for a long time I can come in and ask questions like well why are we doing that," Marsh said. "And if somebody says well we've always done it that way I would say well why not let's try something different."
Trying something different included revamping the driver training program that's putting more drivers on the road faster; almost resolving the shortage. Buses are no longer spending weeks in the shop after additional mechanics were hired. Complaints to customer service have also decreased.
"There's really a 20 percent change of people calling about the status of the bus and that sort of thing," Customer Service Director Mark Chamberlain said.
In October and November of 2013, the number of late buses was down to 150 out of 653 in the morning, 274 in the afternoon.
"Is it 100? No," Marsh admitted.
However district leaders hope it's the start the department needed and they expect to keep moving forward.