While unsatisfied, District 205 continues relationship with transportation provider

District 205 in Galesburg
District 205, 940 W. Fremont St. in Galesburg. (JAY REDFERN/WGIL)

One might say the Galesburg School District has a love-hate relationship with their transportation provider.

The District 205 board Monday night approved a five-year extension of the contract they have with First Student, with a cost increase of six percent next school year, and 3.5 percent each of the following four years.

In short, District Superintendent John Asplund told the board at the moment, there’s not much the district can do.

“Please do not vote this down.  We do not have another option,” Asplund pleaded with the board.  “We can be on our high horse as long as we want, and then we’re not going to get kids to school in August.  I understand — I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying (allegations made about First Student).  If we vote this down, we are making a huge mistake, because we don’t have another option.”

Board members had concerns about the extension itself, the cost increase — one that Asplund called “disgusting” — and other problems.

Problems that in some respects, board member Rodney Phelps let loose about.

“They send drivers with teams out of town that don’t know where the hell they’re going all the time,” said Phelps.  “That’s unsafe, right there, when you send a busload of kids out, and the driver doesn’t know where they’re going.”

First Student’s letter to the district indicates they will be providing tablets with route information on them to drivers.

Asplund said it’s not the rank-and-file drivers and local people he even has a problem with; he said his problems are with “above middle-management,” saying he would not expand on that publicly.

But, he says, that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking into having their own transportation department, at some point.

“We began the process two months ago looking at this.  It’s probably a year-and-a-half to two-year process to do all the things you would need to do to get your own buses,” said Asplund.  “In speaking to area superintendents that currently own their own fleet, they say there’s at least an eight-month backlog for most buses, to try to order them even if you ordered them today.”

Asplund says that’s to say nothing of the fact the district has yet to find a location they can store buses, nor their own bus driver employees.

The Galesburg School Board Monday night also honored five employees retiring from the district at the end of the year, including what was believed to be a late addition to the list, LuAnn Statham, current Director of Special Education, who will be retiring after decades with the district in various capacities.

The board also voted to hire current Monmouth-Roseville High School Principal Jeff Ewing as the next principal of Galesburg Junior-Senior High School, replacing Tom Hawkins.

205 May 2024 personnel

School District 205 May 2024 Personnel Agenda by WGIL Radio on Scribd