Big yellow means big bucks in the Newton County School System, and based on what happens at the public monthly meeting of the BOE on June 25th taxpayers may be throwing more money at what has become for some NCSS officials a very long ride home.
At the May 21 public meeting of the Newton BOE, system officials offered mounting concerns over "extreme fights" on buses departing Ombudsman alternative school.
Originally sold to the public as two distinctly separate centers on polar ends of the county, Ombudsman actually wound up housed in a single facility on Bypass Road.
And $113,731.20 taxpayer dollars, or $2,644.91 per student, currently supply transportation for 43 students.
How much would taxpayers spend if system enrollment of 19,000 is multiplied by the amount lavished on students unable to ride their regularly assigned route because they refuse to behave? The math looks something like this: $2,644.91 x 19,000 = $50,253,290, a full one-third of the total general fund budget for NCSS, the largest employer in town.
These massive costs due to bad behavior are not sustainable for a system facing a daunting general fund ending balance in fiscal year 2015 of $1,881,986 (3.19 days of operating expenses).
Eliminating Ombudsman transportation does not penalize students for whom misbehavior may be a manifestation of a disability; this issue is about students who simply choose to behave badly, are given second-chance bus rides on the backs of taxpayers, yet insist on making the ride home a road for perdition for bus drivers, system officials and law enforcement.
Some argue taxpayers should fund a bus monitor at an additional $24K, bringing the average cost per student to $3,186, an increase of $558 per Ombudsman student.
But anecdotal data show adult monitors make little difference.
On May 1, an Ombudsman driver called for assistance and two NCSS officials rode the entire bus route with students. The next day, May 2, a school resource officer had to file a juvenile complaint on an unruly student. Exactly two weeks later NCSO responded to a fight at the Jack Neely bus stop at 6 p.m. The May 1 adult baby-sitters proved no panacea for aberrant behavior.
Since January students have cursed drivers, threatened to hit drivers, engaged in fights, departed the bus through inappropriate exit doors, made terroristic threats, possessed drugs and littered county roads with trash thrown from windows.
NCSO, EMS, Covington Police, Newton Medical, ambulances and 911 have all been involved in the costly ride home otherwise known as an Ombudsman bus route.
Since the inception of Ombudsman in Newton, more than 53 serious bus incidents -- requiring law enforcement in excess of 15 times -- have been chronicled.
The state does not allocate funds for transportation for alternative schools and systems are not required to fund it.
After all, what equitable monetary amounts are going to kids who follow the rules? I can't find those figures anywhere.
Jeff Meadors has served in elected and appointed positions in education and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org