Laidlaw Transit school bus drivers pose for a team photo at an open house sponsored by the private bus company.
On February 19, 1996, the Climax-Scotts Board of Education voted unanimously to become
the first district in its region to contract with a private company for the busing of
public school children.
The Climax-Scotts privatization effort was much different from other notable
outsourcing initiatives. School bus privatization attempts in Pinckney, Edmore, and
Tecumseh were shaken by the often vociferous opposition of bus drivers, unions, and some
parents. In Climax-Scotts, however, comparatively little rancor existed between the
What was the key to a peaceful transition from public to private busing in
Climax-Scotts? Cooperation, communication, and the mutual desire to do what was best for
the children and community.
HOW IT HAPPENED
In January 1994, Climax-Scotts Superintendent Pete Lazaroff became intrigued by the
potential benefits of school bus privatization. After discussing the concept with four
respected school bus companies, Lazaroff designed and presented a transportation
outsourcing plan to the Board of Educations Personnel and Finance committee. In late
May of that year, the committee gave Superintendent Lazaroff approval to publicly
investigate the possibility of privatization.
Lazaroff began his investigation by encouraging a culture of cooperation with those who
would be impacted by privatization. He did this by assembling a committee of school bus
drivers and other interested parties, such as the Climax-Scotts Bus Drivers
Association (the recognized union bargaining unit), to help him research private school
bus transportation. Janice Gose, former supervisor of Climax-Scotts transportation has
reported great success in this team approach to privatization. "I was very grateful
for the openness displayed by the district. Not only did they avoid surprising us, they
asked if wed participate."
Positive privatization was facilitated by the extreme professionalism of
district bus drivers.
Communication was also important to the success of this privatization effort. Brochures
explaining the districts intentions were mailed to local residents. Throughout the
entire privatization process, articles were placed in local newspapers and the school
district newsletter. In addition, two community meetings provided a forum for the private
firms, the superintendent, bus drivers, and the general public to air concerns or
criticism about the cost saving plan.
The district received two proposals from private bus companies in November 1994. The
committee developed questions for each company and asked to meet with the firms
Shortly thereafter, the committee recommended unanimously that the district enter a
five-year agreement with Laidlaw Transit to provide transportation services. Lazaroff
reports that the district may save $90,000 over the life of the contract, with potential
ten-year savings of over $471,000.
Since the district entered into this agreement, a smooth transition from public to
private school bus transportation has taken place. In addition, thanks to the Laidlaw
contract, Climax-Scotts was able to begin the new school year with seven brand new buses.
Constant and open communication with all stakeholders has allowed for what
Superintendent Lazaroff calls "positive privatization," whereby a win-win
situation is created so that all parties benefit from the transaction. Lazaroff noted that
positive privatization was facilitated by the extreme professionalism of district bus
drivers. "Their willingness to look at the general welfare of the district and its
students allowed for a peaceful, positive conversion of school bus transportation
services," said Lazaroff.
That spirit remains today. According to Laidlaw employee Janice Gose, "I
appreciated the willingness to work together in a fashion that would benefit the students,
drivers, and school district alike." She continued, "I have no qualms with
Laidlaw. They have kept their word and I am very happy with them."