Board chooses Levy as transportation provider

The position of Transportation Coordinator, part of the updated transportation services model, will be the hub and interface between parents and bus company.
Posted on 03/30/2021
illustration of a yellow school bus

By Gary Weckselblatt

The Quakertown Community School Board voted unanimously on March 25th to award a five-year transportation services contract - contingent upon successful contract negotiations, to Levy School Bus Co.

Following a Request For Proposal (RFP), after Levy opted out of its contract last year, Levy and First Student, Inc. were selected as finalists by the Board’s Transportation Committee of Board President Kaylyn Mitchell, Vice President Ron Jackson, Steaven Klein and Brian Reimers. The QCSD Administration agreed with the Committee’s recommendation. 

Based on the proposals of the two companies, Levy is expected to cost $1.23 million less than First Student over a five-year period. Prior to the meeting, First Student offered to reduce its cost by $600,000. That did not sway the Board. More information can be found on the website under Departments and Transportation.  

The district still needs to work out details of a contract with Levy. The vote was 8-0. Director Jennifer Weed was absent. 

Mrs. Mitchell said Directors heard from the community about Levy’s “loyalty and trust.” That community voice played a significant role in helping Levy overcome its presentation, which several Board members were critical of. Mr. Reimers, for example, described it as “less than inspiring.” 

Mrs. Mitchell praised the RFP process, which “really does lay out what criteria we have in place and what we’re going to expect. We will be able to have accountability with that.” She said the process has shown that Levy is “willing to step up to the challenge, and that’s really encouraging for me to see.”

Wayne McCullough, executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of School Business Officials, helped facilitate the RFP process for the district. Mrs. Mitchell described him as “a top-notch professional helping us navigate thru all of this.”

RFPs are a formal document that outlines an organization’s intent to purchase a good or service. The buyer, in the case QCSD, issues the RFP to provide background information and invite potential vendors to submit a proposal. The RFP allowed the district to create a rubric comparison of important factors. The office of the Pennsylvania Auditor General has advocated for RFPs to help protect taxpayers. 

“The RFP process helped us make some really good improvements in our transportation services,” Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner said. Those improvements include cameras and upgraded technology on each bus; enhancements to services for transporting students with special needs. 

The district will also be hiring a Transportation Coordinator to oversee all aspects of the administration and operation of the district’s transportation department and serve as the liaison between the district and transportation company. This will give QCSD more internal controls of transportation services and better access to subsidies, Mr. McCullough said.  

Mr. McCullough, who spent decades as the Chief Financial & Operations Officer of the Southern York County School District, is highly supportive of the Transportation Coordinator position. “In my experience, and I have a great deal of experience in the transportation area, it will bring a return on investment that will exceed your investment.”

The RFP process included interviews with the management team of each of the finalists. Board member Mr. Klein said after the interviews he planned to vote for First Student, whose presentation was “first-rate. … Unfortunately, Mr. Levy was stunningly ill-prepared,” he said.

However, as he began hearing from the community with positive words about Levy, he questioned whether it was fair to base his decision solely on the presentations. “I thought long and hard and honestly changed my mind,” he said. “They did come across with improvements the district was looking for.”

Said Mr. Reimers: “I wasn’t sure they could rise up to meet the challenge. … I was ready to go with First Student. Seeing that movement made me change my mind as well.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or [email protected].

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