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Valentine will oversee shared busing service

Trio of school districts expect to save $300,000+

The Saratoga Elementary Dist. 60C School Board Monday night unanimously approved the hiring of a bus dispatcher to oversee the new shared transportation system.

Vicki Valentine, a Saratoga bus driver and lunchroom substitute, has been hired from a field of six candidates interviewed by district superintendents.

“[Valentine] is a very hard worker,” Dist. 60C Superintendent Kathy Perry said. “She has taken a great interest in the [bus sharing] program.”

The position’s job duties include dispatching bus drivers and coordinating bus schedules.

The job salary will be $31,000 per year, plus 78-percent-district-paid single insurance.

Superintendent Teri Shaw of Morris Elementary Dist. 54, Superintendent Pat Halloran of Morris Community High School Dist. 101, and Perry were part of the hiring process.

The job drew eight applicants, six of whom were contacted for interviews. The first round consisted of more general questions, according to Shaw.

From there, three candidates were brought back for a second round of interviews, which consisted of more scenario-based questions, Shaw said.

“We had a lot of great candidates,” Perry said. “It was a very difficult decision.”

Shaw said Valentine has been vested in the shared transportation process, attending forums and board meetings.

“[Valentine] believes in the shared service model,” Shaw said. “She’ll do what it takes to make it successful.”

Valentine declined to comment at this time.

The plan for the three districts to share buses was approved in March as a cost-saving measure. It will save $300,000 to $500,000 annually, according to Perry.

Estimates provided by Perry indicated that Dist. 54 will save $165,000, Dist. 101 will save $150,000, and Dist. 60C will save $90,000.

The three schools already share special education transportation, and the high school and Morris Elementary share regular busing through Illinois Central School Bus.

Saratoga leases its own fleet, and will be the provider. The buses will say “Morris Community Schools” on the side.

The shared busing program will result in staggered start times at Dist. 54, whose board Monday approved changes to its school day.

Shabbona Middle School will begin school at 8:05 a.m. and end at 3:05 p.m., with early dismissal at 2:05 p.m.

White Oak Elementary School will begin at 8:45 a.m. and run until 3:35 p.m., with a 2:35 p.m. early dismissal time.

Shaw said there will inevitably be challenges in implementing a new system, but believes the cost savings will be valuable as the districts attempt to weather a still-recovering economy with declining tax revenues.

“The goal is to keep as many teachers in front of kids as possible,” Shaw said.

To that end, Shaw said the district is putting forth three initiatives next school year: the shared transportation measure, the staggered start times, and a restructuring of management.

Dist. 54 has gone from four principal positions to three.

On Monday, the board approved the creation of three new positions: district principal, which will oversee both district schools, and associate principals at each school.

Shaw said the district plans to fill the positions in June.

“We had to absolutely think outside the box [to reduce costs],” Shaw said. “I think we came up with three initiatives that do that.”

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