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D-165 to get newer buses

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois Buses

D-165 to get newer buses

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
May 31, 2009

This morning's article in the Northwest Herald may some welcome news to parents of D-165 (Marengo-Union) students and raises more than a few questions.

Superintendent Lea Damisch informed the reporter that the District would replace seven of its 14 buses "by the next school year." Many readers will read the article and believe that the seven buses will arrive by August and be on the road when school opens this fall. A few readers might question when the "next" school year starts. Will it start in September (or August?) 2009 or in 2010?

When I was in college, I was riding the "L" with a German friend. As we approached a station, he asked where we would get off the train. I said, "At the next stop" and I stood up. He remained seated and said that the stop coming up was "this" stop and that the stop after this one would be the "next" one. So, did Supt. Damisch mean "this" school year (starting in the fall of 2009) or the "next" year; i.e., 2010-11?

She is quoting as having said, "Basically, what happened was the state of Illinois came out and made a surprise visit ... determining the buses - from the standpoint of rust on the bodies and rust on the roof - were not to be used on the road."

Was "rust" really the reason that the State of Illinois ordered seven buses off the road? Or were there other reasons - safety or mechanic reasons? Frankly (and I could be wrong), I seriously doubt that the State of Illinois is going to tell a school district to take seven buses off the road because of rust. Now, the State might order the buses off the road because of brakes, suspension, steering, and other serious mechanical defects, but I doubt the State will order a District to take 50% of its buses off the road because of rust.

The article said that D-165 will buy seven buses "within the first year" (last time I checked, a "year" was 12 months) and that the buses will be "used" 2009 buses. Notice that the article did not say that the District would buy the buses within the next two months.

Where do you find a used 2009 bus?

Parents in Marengo should ban together and one of them should submit a FOIA request to the correct State of Illinois Department or Division for the correspondence about bus safety and maintenance issues within the past two years by and between the Department and District 165 and get the whole story. Parents could also make FOIA Requests for the bus maintenance records from District 165. There is no need to guess at how serious the problems are; find out!

And the final statement attributed to Supt. Damisch in the article? "We're going to continue working on replacing the buses as appropriate."

She could have saved her breath on that one. It says absolutely nothing.

"We're going to continue working on replacing..."? What does that mean? The parents don't want school district administrators to "continue working on replacing". Parents want results, not activity. They want safe buses, and they want them now! They want the District to REPLACE its buses, not "continue working on replacing" them.

And the kicker? "as appropriate". That's why they weren't repaired or replaced before the "surprise" visit. Who decides what "appropriate" is? The Superintendent does, and she answers to the School Board. And the School Board answers to the public. More of the "public" in Marengo needs to get involved.

Was this bus replacement plan discussed and announced at last Tuesday's school board meeting or did the information surface afterwards?

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