Riverhead Central School District hires consulting firm to implement transportation ‘overhaul’

Riverhead Central School District Board of Education hired Transpar — a student transportation consulting and management company — to oversee routing management for the district at a special meeting on Wednesday night.

District Superintendent Augustine Tornatore said in an interview after the meeting that the company was hired to “improve the transportation services that we offer to the district.”

“They’re really coming and doing a comprehensive overhaul to make sure that we have the proper routing and that we offer the optimal services for the next school year,” he said.

The motion to hire Transpar, at a cost of $278,760 for a 16-month contract, was passed with a quorum by Board President Brian Connelly, Vice President Laurie Downs and board members Virginia Healy and Matthew Wallace. Board Members Christopher Dorr, Colin Palmer, and Therese Zuhoski were absent from the meeting. This was the only item on the agenda for the night.

“It’s a very detailed project so that’s why we voted this evening rather than wait,” Mr. Wallace said. “It’s going to take them seven to eight months to really get all the information that they need so we want it ready to go for September.”

At the board’s Jan. 10 meeting Micah Brassfield, Transpar’s director of advisory services, presented the results of an analysis the company had done on the districts’ transportation department, finding that it is “significantly understaffed,” she said.

Their analysis focused on two areas: route efficiency, which included a review of staffing, as well as electric vehicle feasibility. According to their analysis, the department is lacking at least three mechanics, two dedicated routers, one additional afternoon dispatcher and one dedicated field trip coordinator.

The district had voted in October to hire Transpar as a response to related concerns raised by both students and parents at meetings since the school year started. Transpar was paid $78,875 for its analysis, money the district expected to recoup through a grant or state aid, according to the agenda item from that meeting.

On Jan. 26, the schools’ purchasing agent solicited Requests for Proposals from companies in the field of transportation with a due date of Feb. 3. The district received a proposal from Transpar which the board was meant to vote on at the Feb. 28 regular meeting, but the motion was tabled. Transpar’s original proposal was priced at $288,755.

Some of the initial steps recommended by Transpar include school-bell time changes, which would need board approval, discussions with the employees’ union, increased staffing, as well as overall policy, traffic density and flow reviews. The full presentation is available on the district website.

According to the contract — which is also available on the district website — from March 16, 2023 through June 30, 2024, Transpar will be providing advisory and transportation management, on-site and off-site support from their executive leadership and advisory service teams.

The district will be paying the $278,760 across 16 equal, monthly installments, which the district expects to be “reimbursed by grants,” according to the agenda item.