- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2001

D.C. special-education students still face long bus rides and are late at least 70 percent of the time, according to an internal audit of the school system's transportation obtained by The Washington Times.
An audit, performed by Warren Enterprises Inc. in Virginia, also expressed alarm at the school system's inability to keep track of its buses and recommended the D.C. inspector general get involved. Results of the audit were released to school officials Friday .
Schools Superintendent Paul Vance and transportation officials were unavailable for comment. A schools spokeswoman, Devonya Smith, said the school system was "not prepared to comment on this report at this time."
According to the report:
Ride-times standards and punctuality standards are not being met and ride times "are rarely met even 50 percent of the time."
Transportation Director Alfred Winder's recommendations, identification of initiatives and challenges have not been addressed or implemented, including his calls for developing a budget analysis for transportation and corrective action for bus maintenance and driver recruitment.
"Safety dilemmas" for bus drivers and attendants transporting wheelchair-bound students continue to exist.
The school system still owes $461,900 to a vendor for two years of storage for buses worth $37,200.
Auditors expressed particular concern over an inventory they performed in December of the bus fleet.
"[School officials and the court] are under the impression that there are approximately 572 school buses owned or leased by DCPS," they wrote. "This conclusion may be right or wrong depending on a disturbing development."
After an inventory, auditors found that 18 buses were missing and began to "mysteriously" start showing up in the bus terminals.
"It is impossible for the physical inventory to miss counting 18 buses," auditors wrote. "Unfortunately, it is possible that these buses may be victim to misappropriation by person or persons unknown. This is a matter for the attention of the inspector general."
In September, the schools superintendent was expected to reorganize a number of departments, including transportation, while Mr. Winder requested an independent official to assess every position in transportation and force some staff members to reapply for their jobs.
"I requested a formal review of all appointments, classification and pay in order to reassure transportation staff that everyone in DCPS gets treated equally," he said in September.
"Some of my staff have complained that senior staff places persons in positions that were not advertised and at improper pay scales. Our problems are about a lot more than absenteeism. They are about people who aren't qualified in positions they aren't supposed to be in."
Mr. Winder, who took over the department in late 1999, said that he tried to inform the prior administration of this concern but was brushed off. The transportation director added that the superintendent has given him a mandate to "do what needs to be done to make it work."
But so far little has happened, say school sources.
While Mr. Winder was unavailable for comment, school officials said privately that "no heads have rolled and little has changed."
"Why should it you essentially have the same team in charge," said one school source who declined to be named. "Sad, isn't it?"

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