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Vilonia school buses decked out with GPS systems

Posted: December 11, 2013 - 7:43pm

The Vilonia School District will soon be equipped with technology allowing route buses to be monitored providing location, stops and speed.

The Vilonia Board of Education, Monday night, approved the purchase of route planning software and fleet management GPS systems to be placed on the district’s 30 route buses.

“If we are going to be professional, we are going to have to have it,” Superintendent Frank Mitchell said, addressing the board. Transporting students, Mitchell said, is one of the district’s greatest responsibilities as well as liabilities.

Mitchell stressed the importance of route planning with the building of the new intermediate school which is to be operational for the 2014-15 school year. “With the route planning of the new intermediate school, this is really going to be needed.”

Mitchell said the technology will provide documentation “where buses are and where they have been,” as well as how fast they are moving. The technology will provide tracking information regarding students missing buses as well as “if someone steals a bus or hijacks one, it can be tracked.”

The route planning software will be purchased from Transfinder with a one-time cost of $9,995 as well as ongoing annual cost of $3,950. The software will assist with a re-routing process which will be required with the addition of the new Intermediate School, Mitchell said. Also, he said, it will provide detailed routing information. Routes, using the new software, can be viewed at a computer terminal rather than physically driving the routes reducing time and manpower.

The GPS systems will be purchased from Zonar at a one-time cost of $12,347 for 30 units to be placed on route buses. The annual cost will also be $9,356 and includes web access, product support and wireless fees.

Another matter, board members were provided a summary of information gathered by Bobby Lester and Keith Williams, consultants with McPherson & Jacobson, LLC, the company assisting with a search for a new superintendent to replace Dr. Frank Mitchell, who has announced he will be retiring at the end of the 2013-14 school year. The information was gathered from focus meetings and a community meeting where participants were asked to weigh in on what they view as an important factor in the search for a new superintendent.

A brief overview, Williams said one of the requirements of a new superintendent should be a strong financial background. A concern, he said, that continues to surface with the groups is the reorganization as the new intermediate school readies to open.

Board members were also provided some potential interview questions and asked to narrow them down to about 22. They were also told to keep the questions confidential as “you may have an internal candidate.”

The consultants said there have been more than 100 hits on the company’s Web site regarding the opening with about four or five applications being submitted.

In other business:

• Assistant superintendent/athletic director Ed Sellers presented a “rough draft” to changes to be in the Student Athletic Handbook. “The skeleton is pretty much the same,” he told board members. He said it is written as simple and concise as possible using the same philosophy that has been in place. Some potential changes, he said, that are proposed those regarding complaints, a section on students involved in swimming and addressing team values. Team values, he said, is to be the focus rather than self-interest with individual athletes. It is anticipated the board will act on the matter at the January meeting.

• The board approved the purchase of 840 cases of copy paper from Office Depot at a cost of $19,530.

• Mitchell spoke briefly about “rumors” circulating regarding scheduling for next year in regard to grades 7-12. “I think we can come up with a schedule, he said, where everyone will be on the same schedule. There are some differences of opinions, he said, on what the schedule should be. However, he said, “We are working on one (a plan) that is a compromise.”

“If you hear rumors regarding scheduling, nobody has said this is the schedule for next year,” he said. “Don’t listen to rumors.”

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