HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - After parents reported problems communicating with Durham School Services about serious issues, like students not returning home on the bus, Durham is under new leadership in its Huntsville division.
The Illinois-based company brought in region manager Dave Brabender to take the place of the former general manager, who is no longer working for Durham, although it was not explained why.
Durham Public Relations Manager Molly Hart said in a statement to WHNT News 19:
"Our region manager, with 4 decades of being in this industry, is overseeing the Huntsville operations. We are working with the Huntsville City Schools regarding the communications issue. As such we have brought on 5 additional team members to handle calls.
In regards to your other questions, we do not discuss personnel issues publicly."
Durham is contracted by Huntsville City Schools to provide transportation for the school system. Superintendent Casey Wardynski said it has a three-year contract, with a year of time left. He said the school system and parents may be frustrated with communication problems with Durham, but they're not at a point yet where that contract needs to be re-evaluated.
"We had some discussions with them about some things we wanted to see put in place, I saw those things being put in place, so far so good. But we keep an eye on things," he said.
Wardynski said he spoke with the new management at Durham's Huntsville office and told them, he doesn't want to have any more problems.
"I told them what I thought about it, and they've taken steps already," he said. "I'll be happy when everything is fixed, and working exactly the way I want it, but I'm happy they're taking steps, yes."
He said the school system would continue to evaluate the changes Durham is making.
"My first concern is always the safety of the kids," he added.
We've already told you about how Superintendent Wardynski has requested an app to be used so parents can do an urgent text message to Durham that cuts through some of the routine calls so they go right to the top of the queue. He added that there is now an emergency contact listed on the school system website to be used in times when parents need immediate help.
"That should connect them to our control center after hours," he said.
Wardynski also helped WHNT News 19 get in touch with Huntsville City Schools Transportation Coordinator, Scott Gillies. Gillies has been difficult for media, and parents, to reach throughout these first few weeks of school. He told us that's because he's a department of one person and relies on Durham for help responding to parents who have concerns. He told us by phone that he's noticed the change of Durham leadership was to improve service, and he's already seen a change. He believes this can help the relationship heal, and Durham's addition of five call-takers will only mean better things for parents who are looking for help. He added that the school system will still continue to address issues as necessary. If you have concerns, this website can assist you.