School Board Votes to Oust Laidlaw - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/05/06

School Board Votes to Oust Laidlaw

The Savannah-Chatham County Board of Public Education has voted unanimously to terminate the contract of bus company Laidlaw.

Problems with bus service have been plaguing the district for months, such as children getting picked up late or not at all, and the board of education is clearly fed up with Laidlaw.

After much discussion and several comments, the board decided to terminate Laidlaw's contract because of its failure to fulfill the terms of that contract.

For months we've been hearing from parents their concerns about Laidlaw. The also received numerous complaints from parents, and the board listened. Superintendent Dr. Thomas Lockamy says the level of service from the company has been less than satisfactory, and in the last two years, it's gotten even worse.

"This year hasn't been any better, it's only gotten worse as we moved through the year," said Dr. Lockamy. "It's been a long year for me, because, what I thought was going to be the biggest challenge, academic achievement...the big challenge has been getting my students to school on time."

In January, the company was given 30 days to improve, and Lockamy says they didn't. That's main reason they had to move forward and terminate the contract.

"Obviously, Laidlaw is disappointed in the board's action and feels that it wasn't warranted," said David Johnson, the company's attorney. "We will be evaluating the board's action in light of the contract terms and in light of the board's state rationale for its action. And we'll determine through that evaluation what action, if any, is appropriate."

As for what's next, Lockamy told us, "I will give the board the options of bringing the transportation in house or whether we can work an outside vendor."

Those options could come as soon as next month's board meeting.

The board has also decided to penalize the Laidlaw with a fine, asking the company to pay $51,000 from its June, 2006 invoice. That's 5 percent of the $10.2 million contract.

Laidlaw will continue running the buses through the end of the school year.

Reported by: Brooke Kelley, bkelley@wtoc.com

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