One of the most persistent and least true of the many myths about contracting of support services is that the school board loses control over the service when it outsources to a private company. The fact is that absent state interference, the board can have as much or as little control as it wants over contracted service; it’s the board’s choice. It all depends on the way the contract is structured.
Want to make sure drivers maintain current wages and benefits? Put it in the contract. Want to review all new hires? Put it in the contract. Want a zerotolerance policy? Put it in the contract. Want the buses washed every day? Put it in the contract. Want to field all the parent calls? Put it in the contract.
In reality, most school officials don’t want daily involvement in contracted transportation; one of the reasons they outsource is to shift the operational responsibilities to professionals so that they can concentrate on their primary mission. But those who want it can easily have it — all they have to do is put it in the contract so that both parties understand from the start what the board’s expectations are.
It’s important to note, however, that the most successful board-contractor relationships are built less on contract language than on mutual respect. The contractor respects the school board’s responsibility for policy, standards, and oversight and the board respects the contractor’s responsibility for operational performance. Each understands the importance of clear and regular communication, and each recognizes that they have a common goal: to deliver children to and from school safely and on time every day. How that is accomplished is very much a matter of local control, whether or not the service is contracted.
NYSBCA can provide sample contracts or help individual districts structure their contracts so that both parties benefit. We can also provide sample RFPs or help districts design bid notices and RFPS that will attract a maximum number of bidders.