Q&A with White Settlement Independent School District

Located in a suburb of Fort Worth, Texas, the White Settlement Independent School District serves nearly 7,000 Pre Kindergarten through 12th Grade students in nine schools. Prior to contracting with STA’s GoldStar Transit in 2017, the district’s student transportation was managed by the former Dallas County Schools (DCS), a public school bus agency, which also maintained the district-owned school bus fleet.

What problems, issues, or needs led you to engage GoldStar?
Our school district was struggling to keep up with the time, effort and expertise required to recruit, hire, train and retain school bus drivers and support staff. We needed a team of professional transportation managers and maintenance technicians to handle our fleet and provide the first line of customer service to the families we serve. DCS provided that service with an on-site manager for six years but they had trouble finding enough drivers and the agency was struggling in a number of other ways.

What have the implementation phase and ongoing relationship been like?
The GoldStar team came in and immediately became part of our Brewer Bears family. They did a great job with the transition from DCS. GoldStar managers were on-site two months before the actual start of the contract and they made the transition as easy as possible for our drivers and other transportation staff. They evaluated our existing transportation system, conducted interviews and hired 90 percent of our existing transportation team. I used to manage transportation myself, so I know what it takes and how hard this job is. The first week of school is always tough. Before we hired GoldStar, I would get as many as 45 calls from parents with transportation issues during the first weeks of school. The first year with GoldStar, I received only two or three calls and this past year that number was zero. No calls, now that’s impressive!

For me, it’s all about the quality of the people who manage the operation. Our on-site GoldStar General Manager is a lifeline for me. She is always just a phone call away. She and GoldStar’s Regional Operations Director have done a tremendous job of embracing our values and seamlessly becoming part of our team. They attend our internal leadership meetings and actively participate in strategic planning. They really care about our kids. We channel all transportation calls directly to the GoldStar team. For the most part, one call is all it takes to answer a question or settle an issue.

What have been the greatest benefits of working with GoldStar?
The greatest thing about GoldStar is their professionalism. GoldStar employees are the best! They have a very high standard for customer service and treat every child who gets on the bus like their own child. Another benefit is the investment that GoldStar has made in our area. They serve several other small school districts across the Fort Worth Metroplex including the neighboring districts of Saginaw and Burleson. When we have special events or big trips that call for additional drivers, like taking 1,700 kids to Six Flags for the day, GoldStar can pull drivers from these other districts to fill our needs. GoldStar directors do an awesome job with training. They have consistently high standards and do and say the same things to their drivers throughout the area. So when we have to bring in drivers from these neighboring districts, they display the same professionalism and customer service ethic as our own team.

Can you share specifically how GoldStar helped you reach your goals?
First and foremost, is GoldStar’s ability to keep our kids safe. The GoldStar team treats our kids and families with respect and puts student safety and security above all else. Our second goal is cost control. GoldStar is very cost-effective. We have not seen any high or unexpected costs pop up, which makes GoldStar a budget-friendly partner for us. Third, is customer service. They’re not just a transportation company. They are a service company and they take great pride in the quality of service they provide. On a scale of 1 – 10, I give them a 10 for customer service. Fourth is fleet maintenance. They take great care of our fleet and keep all equipment up to an A standard.

How is GoldStar to work with?
Our district is probably a little different than most. Assistant Superintendents are not normally as involved with the transportation team as I am. I visit the bus terminal monthly to talk with mechanics and meet with drivers to reinforce the vision and values that guide our district. Many drivers have been with us 20-plus years. As a former teacher, coach and principal, I have gotten to know them very well. They understand our philosophy. The bus driver is the first face students see at the start of the school day and the last in the afternoon so they can make a kid’s day or ruin their evening. They don’t just drive, they care for our kids and make sure they’re safe.

How is GoldStar aligned with the values that drive your school district?
We work as one team. One of our sayings is that we want to be the best school district in the universe. GoldStar wants to be part of that. They participate in our strategic planning meetings and are with us every step of the way.

How has working with GoldStar made your job/work life easier?
GoldStar is very proactive. They address issues before
they become problems and that definitely makes my job easier. Most of the time, issues are handled before they ever come to my attention. When my phone isn’t ringing with transportation issues, I can focus on the rest of my job.

What surprised you or pleased you the most about working with GoldStar?
What surprised me the most was how easy GoldStar made the transition from our former service provider. It was seamless. They came in, clearly stated their expectations of drivers and staff, completed training and were up and running in no time like they’d always been here. They don’t wait for problems to arise but anticipate issues and develop plans to address them before they come up. Everything from bad weather to changing traffic patterns are anticipated so they don’t derail the system. It’s an approach that begins at the top of the organization and is reflected in the entire team. There’s no guess work as everything is very calculated and everyone on the team knows exactly what they need to do.

Would you recommend GoldStar to others? What positive benefits would you emphasize?
When I recommend GoldStar to others, I emphasize their ability to resolve all of our district’s transportation issues – from safety, maintenance and training to handling parent concerns. They take care of it so we don’t have to. They have become true partners with our district and that doesn’t always happen when you outsource.

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