Wake County school's transportation director resigns

Don Haydon
September 18, 2012 4:43:41 AM PDT
Wake schools Chief Facilities and Operations Officer Don Haydon has submitted his resignation amid busing problems.

The district has been mired in literally thousands of complaints from parents about buses that are late, or don't arrive at all, since the start of the school year.

Parents were still reporting some problems Monday.

"It's frustrating. It's uncertain," said parent Tim O'Hara. "It's tough getting them ready in the morning when you don't know how long you're going to have to wait out there for a bus."

O'Hara, who lives in Apex, told ABC11 he's fed up. His second grader's bus showed up after school started Monday morning.

He's mapped out his child's bus route, which he said includes some backtracking, and told us he feels the school system miscalculated the amount of time the route should take - while Google maps, and his own experience, told him the route takes much longer.

"You're at least probably about double, close to double," said O'Hara. "There's just some stuff you look at and it makes you wonder who put this together and what were they thinking. It just doesn't make any sense whatsoever."

Sources told ABC11 that Wake County's transportation chief was forced to resign Monday or be fired over the problems. But are those problems all Haydon's fault?  The ABC11 I-Team has obtained emails that appear to show this year's transportation plan was designed to fail, or at least designed with obvious flaws.

According some messages sent from Superintendent Tony Tata to school board members, this year's new school choice plan increased bus mileage by 20 percent over last school year.

Another email indicates that the computer programs which calculated the routes could be handled with fewer buses this year than last "do not deal with the friction of traffic, slow bus stops, car pool lanes, etc."

Wake County School Board President Kevin Hill told ABC11 he was blindsided by Haydon's resignation.

"I had no advice warning. The superintendent doesn't have to share with board members personnel moves," said Wake County School Board President Kevin Hill.

Hill said what's happened in Wake County has been a domino effect because of budget cuts, the new school choice plan, and more students. Hill doesn't think Haydon should have lost his job because of it.

"In an attempt to find funding for those programs, maybe we pinched transportation a little too much," said Hill.

With Haydon gone, Hill doesn't think things will change anytime soon despite the addition of more buses on the road.

"My guess is that we're going to bring back most of them, if not all of them," said Hill. "The biggest issue we have right now is the lack of bus drivers."

Meanwhile, Hill said there will be an audit of the transportation department.

And there are more changes on the way for the district. Tuesday, the board will unveil its new student assignment proposal. In June, it decided to make changes to the current choice-based plan after it got mixed reviews from parents.

The school board majority has proposed going back to address-based assignment that includes more diversity.

Haydon has not returned phone calls from ABC11. He's been on the job 10 years.

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