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'Weight Has Been Lifted' with D113A Vote to Keep Busing In-House: Drivers

Bus drivers, parents and students rejoiced over the board's rejection of outsourcing bus services.

The pleas from Lemont-Bromberek District 113A parents, students and bus drivers were heard Wednesday night, as the board unanimously voted against outsourcing the busing of students. 

"We are all thrilled," said bus driver Amanda Samanich. "We love the kids. ... We're in shock, we can't believe it."

The district had been weighing using an outside provider for its busing services as a cost-saving measure, but in the months leading up to the vote the public spoke up—loudly—against the proposal. 

On Wednesday, District 113A Director of Operations Pam Mazurek stepped up to the mic during a public hearing before the vote. Mazurek, who is retiring in June, directly oversees the bus drivers. 

"There is not one driver here tonight who doesn't go above and beyond for the safety of the students," she said. 

"The board needs to allow time to make the best decision for the students in the district."

They pleaded, and then they waited. Three hours after they stepped up one last time to fight for the jobs, the board returned from executive session. 

"One thing we've all come to believe to be true, is that our bus drivers are important to the community, we do value the work that you do," said board member Brian Bushnell. "...We rely on you to help us get better. ...It's a learning curve on our end."

The board reviewed bids with comparisons between current costs, and bids from companies First Student and Westway. Documents showed contracting the services with First Student could save the district $310,501 over three years, while the district might have seen savings of $105,295 with Westway. 

Parents rallied for the bus drivers, saying their dedication and attention to students could not be duplicated in outside drivers. Mazurek's voice trembled as she implored the board to save the drivers' jobs.

"There's just some things money can't buy," she said.

With the decision to keep services in-district, board member Al Malley said the board will now research ways to increase efficiency and cost-effectiveness with current drivers, as well as purchasing buses for the district. 

"We do value the partnership that could be, not as what it is now, because it could be better," Bushnell said. "And we're willing to take that chance." 

Samanich and the other drivers grateful to have a job hugged in relief and astonishment at the board's decision.

"When you love it like we do, it's not a job," Samanich said.

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Bob April 24, 2014 at 07:54 AM
I'm glad to see the town rally to save the bus driver and not worry about the cost. Too bad the same thing didn't happen a few years ago to save the jobs of the teachers.
Edward Andrysiak July 07, 2014 at 11:35 AM
We all moan about taxes but there are times when the cost to the tax payer simply is worth what we pay for and get. I think the Board should be applauded for listening to the community. This was the right decision! I do wonder however why it was made in executive session...it would have been beneficial for all to see the decision making process as it took place.

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