We Are Fixing the Fixing of the School Bus Situation

Washburn County Public School District Town Hall Meeting with Superintendent Rogers: Tuesday 6pm


All right! Hey, look at this, you were all able to locate the meeting, even though we changed the date several times and really buried the livestream link. Great! Impossibly great. Let’s get started.


Thank you teachers, students, parents, bus drivers, members of the press, infrastructural hobbyists, internet voyeurs, casual enthusiasts of lighthearted catastrophes, and the mercilessly vocal national and international public for attending this hybrid online and in-person Washburn County Public School meeting. Here we… all… are. Great.


As Superintendent, preparer of the county educational budget, let me reiterate that I take all of your concerns regarding the bus issue of the past year to heart, be they via email, phone, fax, sideways glances, word of mouth, and one 96 count Crayola Crayon box thrown through my lake house window. Looks like “Bittersweet” isn’t just a color anymore! It is a color though.


As we wind down this academic year, we reflect how we’ve overcome – maybe how we’ve thrived – since our opening day in August and “The Incident.” In case you don’t recall, The Incident, simply put, was the failing of the newly implemented Washburn County Public School Bus pickups and drop offs on the first day of school, August 9th. Unfortunately, the bus routes were insufficiently planned. Some children were forced to run across interstates to new bus stops, nearly exposing them to the fates of turtles on a pond road. Some children left and returned to their homes in the morning and evening twilight hours. One student was deposited at home so late she encountered the Henderson Road Ghost, who of course has walked the stretch past Breakers Creek for two hundred years since her fiancée got cold feet and pushed her out of a carriage on their wedding night.


Anyway, the new bus routes were so catastrophic that I made the decision to cancel all school for two weeks as we returned to the old bus route system, leading many students to lose their enthusiasm for enforced learning.


In the wake of The Incident, the Board made the decision to hire the Bigger Picture Investigative Services company to perform an audit on the “human failings” and “automation bias” that led to The Incident. I was happy to oblige, as I am wracked with guilt. I am so deeply sorry that you all feel bad about what happened, and so deeplier sorry that I wrote things in emails that should have been phone calls. It is also with profoundly humble humility that I now announce the release of Bigger Picture’s 658 page audit of The Incident, its leadup and aftermath. I will just share the highlights now with you, except with those of you clearly leaving to order takeout and read the whole thing at home like it’s the eighth Harry Potter book: Harry Effs the Bus Routes.


Okay, highlights…


1)    Superintendent Rogers Attends National Superintendent’s Conference in Reno, Nevada and is approached by MAXIBUS ROUTE TECH.


In retrospect, it’s possible I could have deduced that the Maxibus team was not qualified for the task at hand, and was in fact a weekend startup run by a three high school students trying to sell a Unicorn and retire by drinking age. I could have done more investigation, requested references, or asked who the President was the year Brad, the CEO, was born. I could have called the phone number on the web site which I now understand belongs to the Butternut Basin Ski Lodge Gift Shop. But we were in a time crunch! We needed tech solutions for a human shortage problem. Then Brad explained their automation routes intricately on a cocktail napkin at the Silver Dollar Lounge. I took their word, being an earnest person, and offered them a non-compete contract and a canvas sack of education department cash.


2)    Superintendent Rogers expresses an automation bias in hotel room internet search: “Robot Help For Humans for Drive Bus.”


Look you jackals, robots do lots of things for us now that are hard, like meat packing and writing screenplays! Driving a school bus is challenging, physically exhausting, and risks exposure to twice-daily comments on facial features and body odor by button-nosed hellions like Casey Dean — not Casey per se, Casey Dean, age 9, but just saying, like Casey – which can cut a like a scythe through the flesh of your dignity and leave you bleeding self-confidence out the inside of your skin. And the cup holders are too small for Stanleys.


3)    MAXIBUS ROUTE TECH, hired by Superintendent Rogers, offers to reroute the bus pickups and drop-offs in a bid of “I dunno, like, $876,534?” explained later by CEO Brad “B-Money” Briggs, as the highest number of dollars under a million that he could think of without sounding suspicious. There was no counter by Rogers, who was in haste to return to his hotel room to watch reruns of Fire Country.


Excellent show. Drama. Heat. Romance.


4)    In the gathering of information that followed, MAXIBUS made a hasty inquiry into practices that was full of holes and directed often to incorrect personnel. Texting Superintendent Rogers, Mr. Briggs asked, “How fast can a kid get off a bus?” To which Superintendent Rogers replied, “Like, 30 seconds? 10? How long are kids’ legs?”


I apologize again, I was not an expert in the pace of bus loading or unloading, nor in how long kids’ legs are. It is my understanding now that that length of legs may alter with diet and age.


5)    Having consulted no experts, and with no prior experience in route planning, MAXIBUS procured a hotel room for two days at a local Holiday Inn Express, and created a new “Red Yarn” bus route system based on:

  1. “The pre-existing bus route system but hire more drivers”
  2. “FedEx and Amazon give rides to students living near package distribution facilities”
  3. “Hitchhiking (high schoolers and very confident middle schoolers only)”
  4. “The Oregon Trail (do not ford river, bus will rust, not resilient like oxen)”
  5. “Solve for Bus 189: has no final stop scheduled, will make drop-offs indefinitely”


Yadda yadda yadda, had I been privy to these deliberations prior to the bus route system roll out, I might have objected. As it happened, I did not read it. No one did! The system Maxibus created was put up for a District School Board vote, but everyone was mostly distracted as the Johnson High football team’s unforms — Go Hawks! — had just been redesigned with aggressively sexual lettering. The new routes were passed, the system rolled out August 9th, hundreds of children rode the bus into the wee hours of the evening, several drivers emerged like wizened protagonists of the summer reading literary classic The Lord of the Flies, and Bus 189 was found empty on its side in a shallow river.


As the year closes, we will continue to find answers! Maxibus has not returned the money we gave them, but are taking a gap year to travel Europe and think about what they did. And this summer we will work hard to ensure that we have safe new bus routes, and guarantee that EVERY child… Who is intent on bettering their lives… Through HARD WORK and education… And who can enter and exit a bus in 60 SECONDS or less… Will have… Buses that will take them to school……. On the same routes as two years ago just with massive delays expected—