Durham manager: "I will hold myself accountable" for school bus - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Durham manager: "I will hold myself accountable" for school bus accidents, drivers

Durham manager: "I will hold myself accountable" for school bus accidents, drivers

(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5) (Source: WMC Action News 5)

New year. New contract. New benchmarks. New leadership.

Kerry Krick is the new regional manager for Durham School Services, the exclusive school bus contractor for Shelby County Schools and for the county's six municipal school districts.

"We're here for safety," Krick said in an exclusive interview with WMC Action News 5. "We learn from our mistakes."

Krick has his work cut out for him.

He inherited a school bus fleet with a record of 251 Shelby County school bus accidents or incidents in the last three years. Records revealed its drivers were at fault in more than half of them.

WMC Action News 5 also found Durham bus drivers with drug and felony records, countless motor vehicle violations -- a Durham driver for the Millington, Tennessee, school district was even extradited to Texas for outstanding drug and fraud warrants.

In spite of that record, Shelby County Schools renewed Durham for the 2015-16 school year with a $28.2 million contract -- what amounts to a $2.3 million raise. But strict benchmarks are tied to the money. According to the contract, SCS will withhold a percentage of funds from Durham's annual allotment if it fails:

* to have less than nine preventable accidents.

* to have less than 11 mechanical/technical failures.

* to achieve 95 percent on-time arrivals monthly

* to achieve zero unreported accidents/incidents involving children.

"If we don't get the benefit of our bargain and a company doing exactly what they're supposed to be doing and promise to do, we're going to hold them accountable," SCS Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said.

"I will hold myself accountable," Krick said. "I'll hold my own feet, my managers' feet to the fire, and if we are not living up to the obligations and my expectations, by all means, we failed."

As far as Krick is concerned, failure is not an option, and he's putting the new contract and its money to work. "We've actively, strongly recruited new professional drivers," he said, although he admitted he has kept 90 percent of the drivers who served SCS last year. "We have retrained our drivers who were here," he added.

He itemized each of the safety features his team has added to bolster Durham's service to both SCS and to the municipal school districts:

* Zonar diagnostic computers on every bus. Drivers must activate their hand-held Zonar devices on every Zonar sensor on their buses twice a day: before the morning route and before the afternoon route. "It searches for any deficiencies in the vehicle," Krick demonstrated. "We get the report, they get the report, they see it on the screen, we see it on the screen (at the training center). If it's not safe, it's not leaving the yard."

* GPS tracking devices on every bus

* Six safety/training supervisors, plus six more roadside supervisors. "So when I talk about a huge safety staff, that's a lot of dollars that we've brought into the community to make sure that we are following what we say."

* Motor vehicle violation background checks on every driver every 60 days.

* FBI background checks on new hires that are double and triple-checked by both SCS and Durham.

"They upgraded almost every procedure that they have," said new Shelby County Council PTA President Nina Ophelia Booker. "I could just well say, on behalf of Shelby County PTA, that they have exceeded what we expected of them."

"We are pleased with the renewal commitment from Durham," said Collierville Schools Chief of Staff Dr. Russell Dyer. Dyer is also the transportation spokesperson for all six municipal school districts. "They have been responsive and receptive to our concerns, and we are enjoying the same upgrades. We look forward to a smooth start (to the school year)."

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