Q&A with Pueblo City Schools

Located in southern Colorado, Pueblo City Schools serve nearly 18,000 students in 32 schools. More than 2,500 students ride regular bus routes to and from school each day.

What problems, issues or needs led you to engage Student Transportation of America (STA)?
We converted from district-run to contracted student transportation about seven years ago but our experience with our original contractor was not good. Staffing was a struggle; we had three different site managers before we got one who could stabilize the busing operation. And the corporate structure was such that these site managers had very little authority to make local decisions. Regional managers, far removed from our operation, were in charge and there was a revolving door at that level as well. Maintenance was another issue. They purchased our fleet of aging buses and the replacement vehicles they brought in were also older. Vehicles were in constant need of repair and it was a daily fight to keep enough buses on the road. As a result, service was poor, and we received many complaints from school administrators and parents. When we decided to rebid the contract in the fall of 2017, service deteriorated even further.

How was the implementation phase?
We awarded the contract to STA for the 2018-2019 school year and the difference in the way they operate was eye opening. STA’s preparation and execution before, during and after start-up was outstanding. They brought in a local team that established an office and began interviewing and screening drivers well before the contract commenced. The contract provided for a brand-new fleet of environmentally-friendly propane buses that was sized correctly for our needs. STA also introduced our community to the SafeStop school bus tracking app, which has been very well-received by parents. The entire transition was seamless and efficient, despite less than professional conduct exhibited by the outgoing contractor.

What have been the greatest benefits of working with STA?
The greatest benefit of working with STA is that our district receives much better service without paying significantly more. The buses are newer, safer and the whole operation is just more efficient. Our school bus drivers are also much happier. They receive better training and more professional supervision, which translates into better service. The feedback from our school community has been overwhelmingly positive and I get far fewer complaints. With our previous contractor I received three to four complaints a day, now I get less than one a month.

How is your ongoing relationship with STA?
Our relationship with STA is excellent. The local team is very easy to work with and on top of every issue. They call us when they have a question or a request, but otherwise they run the operation so well that I no longer need to be involved on a day-to-day basis. We feel very fortunate to have the management team STA has put in place. Their attention to detail and customer service skills are amazing! With our former contractor we were just someone to invoice; STA is truly a partner. We feel appreciated and welcomed; they really get it.

Can you share specifically how STA helped you reach your goals?
When we converted our transportation system from district-run to contracted, our goal was to turn the operation over to transportation experts who would provide safe, reliable service. We wanted to relieve our staff from time-consuming, day-to-day oversight. STA runs a turnkey operation in which every detail is covered. That allows me and my team to concentrate on our other responsibilities.

How is STA aligned with the values that drive your school district?
Having STA onboard is like having our own transportation department without all the work. They have assimilated into our school district and operate as an extension of our team, reflecting our values and commitment to safe, reliable service.

How has working with STA made your job/work life easier?
With STA, I don't have to "babysit" the operations as I did with our former contractor. That was a big issue that took a great deal of time. From day one, STA picked up the operation and ran it like they had been here for years.

What surprised you or pleased you most about working with STA?
We were extremely pleased and impressed with the way STA handled the transition from our former contractor. They were so well organized; they planned for every detail of the transition. Our previous contractor took three years to get their routing software to work. In the interim they had designed routes by hand and bus drivers used hand-held maps; the first two weeks of school were a guessing game. In contrast, STA hit the ground in July and had all the routes to us two weeks before school started. We were able to publish them and get all details about stop locations and times out to parents. I don’t even think I got one phone call on the first day of school.

Would you recommend STA to others? What positive benefits would you emphasize?
I highly recommend STA to other school districts without hesitation. I called my counterparts at surrounding school districts and told them if they are interested in contracting their transportation, they need to look at STA. I emphasize everything from the cost-savings options STA presents to STA’s very detailed and thorough approach to operations. The difference between STA and our former contractor is like night and day.