Wake school bus chief resigns

System had continuing complaints about the buses this school year

khui@newsobserver.comSeptember 18, 2012 

The man in charge of transportation for Wake County schools stepped down Monday amid continuing complaints about the way buses have been running this school year.

Don Haydon, Wake’s chief facilities and operations officer, “elected to resign,” according to Samiha Khanna, a Wake schools spokeswoman. Khanna said Haydon will be on paid leave through Dec.31, but will provide any information or assistance needed to make the transition easier.

Haydon, whose annual salary is $150,666, has been one of Wake’s top school administrators since he started on Dec. 1, 2002. Efforts to reach Haydon on Monday were unsuccessful.

“I’ve always found him to be professional and thorough, and always looking out for the interests of the school system,” school board member Christine Kushner said.

The nearly 150,000-student Wake County system has been plagued with bus problems since year-round schools started in July and especially since traditional-calendar schools began on Aug. 27. Thousands of reports of late, overcrowded and missing buses poured into schools and administration offices, and Haydon was among the many staff people working long hours to make corrections.

Wake had taken 52 buses off the road this school year to save money, resulting in longer routes for the remaining 881 buses as they picked up more than 75,000 riders.

Amid the complaints, Wake has put back 41 of the 52 previously sidelined buses. Haydon, Superintendent Tony Tata and school board members have repeatedly apologized for the bus problems.

“It is not the service we want to deliver, not the service that our students and our families want or expect or should expect or deserve, so for that I apologize,” Haydon said at a school board meeting Sept. 4. “While apologies can sometimes be hollow, I do want to say that we’re going to fix it.”

Some parents were still complaining Monday about bus problems. Cary parent Christine Reinke has been dealing with troubling scenarios with school buses for weeks, as the family’s third-grader at Apex Elementary and sixth- and eighth-graders at Apex Middle waited for unpredictable or crammed vehicles.

Last week, Haydon himself took a hand at correcting a middle school bus route that neighbors told Reinke contained 60 students. Both the middle school and elementary routes seemed under control Monday, although the morning bus to Apex Middle was 10 or 15 minutes late, Reinke said.

“It’s fixed,” she said. “But it’s been four weeks.”

The bus problems shouldn’t be laid at Haydon’s feet, Kushner said.

“The focus on cutting costs was too aggressive,” she said. “First we need to fix it, then learn from it and make sure it never happens again.”

In addition to overseeing the buses, Haydon’s other responsibilities included managing school maintenance and construction. One of Haydon’s tasks has been helping determine which construction and renovation projects would be funded in a bond referendum that could go on the ballot next year. That list of projects is not complete.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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