Improvements continue for Youngstown School District
By Amanda Tonoli
The Youngstown City School District’s transportation department was recognized for its first of many steps toward success.
“We have a lot more coming,” Colleen Murphy-Penk, transportation director, said at a Friday news conference. “The YCSD transportation department is making a few small strides which will definitely impact families.”
Murphy-Penk joined the Youngstown transportation department in the fall from her position as transportation director at Austintown schools.
Murphy-Penk is credited with improving what was a number of shortcomings the Ohio Department of Education named in the district’s summer evaluation.
Some of the shortcomings included incomplete driver and vehicle maintenance records, nonexistent vehicle-repair records and no documentation of required training for bus drivers.
The state officer’s visit last month lauded the turnaround.
“An experienced transportation director was hired,” Robert F. Hartman, ODE’s director of pupil transportation, wrote in a letter to CEO Krish Mohip. “As part of the process, changes were immediately made as to route assignments, software and hardware upgrade plans were implemented, and additional drivers hired to begin offsetting the driver shortage. All drivers and their certifications were reviewed to ensure compliance with governing laws and rules.”
One change Murphy-Penk implemented hit home with parent Megan Mercado.
Mercado’s son got on the bus at a dangerous stop on Glenwood Avenue three years ago. Three separate times, she fearfully watched her son almost get hit by a car while crossing the road – through no fault of the driver.
“The [bus] driver always did what she was supposed to do,” Mercado said. “She was as careful as you can be given her route.”
Murphy-Penk began with improving bus routes for safety and eliminating unnecessary stops – something that hadn’t been done for several years.
“I can’t even talk highly enough about the people involved in this district,” Mercado said. “I know Colleen spoke about this being a small step, but it was big. Kids need to know they’re safe, and she cares about that.”
Murphy-Penk said without the cooperation of her team and others the success would not have been possible.
Moving forward, Murphy-Penk said, “The future holds [for] more technology to connect to parents about drop-off times.”