State recognizes vast improvement with Youngstown Schools’ busing

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – A child’s school day typically begins and ends with a bus ride. Busing problems at Youngstown City Schools made that process complicated until a new transportation director came on board.

The state made three visits last year, trying to help Youngstown fix those issues with the busing system.The message got through and the Ohio Department of Education noticed a difference.

The message got through and the Ohio Department of Education noticed a difference. Now the district has a better grade based on the busing improvements it’s made.

“Transportation was one of the hardest hit areas when I came into this job and on Day 2, all drivers were decertified and buses were grounded,” said School CEO Krish Mohip.

During the summer, the Ohio Department of Education noted incomplete driver and vehicle records, and no documentation of required bus driver training.

The district hired Colleen Murphy-Penk, formerly of Austintown Schools, to make changes.

“When I first arrived, it was very disorganized,” she said.

Murphy-Penk recognized a driver shortage was delaying routes and causing kids to be dropped off at home late. The district didn’t have enough drivers, so they were doubling up the routes.

“We turned that around. We already hired 14 drivers, we have more on the way,” Murphy-Penk said.

She is also in the process of adding technology to help keep the buses on track. The technology will also give parents the ability to locate their child’s bus at any given time.

“We’re going to put technology into the hands of the parents through an app on their phone. We’ve already got GPS units installed on the buses, so they’ll be able to see where the bus is as well,” Murphy-Penk said.

The top priority is always child safety.

“I’m still committed to ensuring a parent knows when a child gets on a bus and gets off a bus,” Mohip said.

Aides have also been put on the school buses to help the drivers and make sure the kids are well-behaved, to keep them safe.

The improving grade comes from Director of Pupil Transportation Robert Harmon, who was in Youngstown two weeks ago. He said the district put suggestions in place and is achieving results.

Harmon noted the vast improvement during his visit. Mohip has also seen an improvement.

“Publically, I want to thank all of the drivers. You’re doing an amazing job,” Mohip said. “I appreciate everything that you do for our children every day, appreciate the flexibility that you’ve shown.”

The district has more plans for the future, including tracking parts in the garage so it knows what it costs to put buses on the road and keep them running efficiently.