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Crystal Lake School Districts 155, 47 buses moved off lot before IDOT safety inspections

District 47: bus service employee erred in judgment

H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com
A Community High School District 155 and Crystal Lake School District 47 bus heads out on a route Wednesday from the Transportation Joint Agreement’s bus garage at 1204 S. McHenry Ave. in Crystal Lake. An employee is accused of hiding buses before an Illinois Department of Transportation inspection under orders from the director. District 47 said it was an error in judgment by the employee and the matter is being dealt with.
H. Rick Bamman – hbamman@shawmedia.com A Community High School District 155 and Crystal Lake School District 47 bus heads out on a route Wednesday from the Transportation Joint Agreement’s bus garage at 1204 S. McHenry Ave. in Crystal Lake. An employee is accused of hiding buses before an Illinois Department of Transportation inspection under orders from the director. District 47 said it was an error in judgment by the employee and the matter is being dealt with.

CRYSTAL LAKE – Ten school buses were moved from the bus depot shared by Community High School District 155 and Crystal Lake School District 47 before an Illinois Department of Transportation inspection Oct. 17, according to IDOT and District 47 officials.

The Transportation Joint Agreement, as it’s called, is the busing service that takes about 12,000 students a day from Districts 155 and 47 to and from school on its fleet of 125 buses.

Except on Oct. 17, for some reason, 10 TJA buses were moved off the lot at 1204 S. McHenry Ave. A spokesperson for District 47 said an employee made an error in judgment, but declined to answer additional questions about what happened.

“Unbeknownst to TJA directors, buses were removed from the lot following an error in judgment by a TJA employee,” a spokesperson wrote in an emailed response to questions from the Northwest Herald. “The buses were tested and have passed the inspection. This is a personnel matter that is being dealt with.”

A call to TJA Director of Transportation Penny Fleming was not returned Wednesday.

The spokesperson’s email said that when leadership learned what happened, they “worked swiftly to investigate what happened, had the buses inspected and rectified the situation.”

District 47 Board President Rob Fetzner said Wednesday that his understanding of the incident is that as soon as TJA Assistant Director of Transportation Collin McCormick found out about the moving of buses, McCormick immediately started an investigation to get to the bottom of what happened.

“Hopefully, they’re in the process of finalizing the report,” Fetzner said.

District 47 has a text alert system to notify parents of safety concerns, Fetzner said, but an alert was not sent out because it wasn’t a student safety issue and the buses passed follow-up IDOT safety inspections, he said.

In an email exchange between a district bus driver – who alerted the Northwest Herald to the incident – and IDOT Bureau of Investigation and Compliance Vehicle Inspection Unit Manager Dan Thompson, the latter confirmed that the buses were moved before IDOT’s arrival Oct. 17.

“Thank you for your info,” Thompson wrote in an email to the driver. “I followed up and indeed they had moved 10 buses without our knowledge.”

On Oct. 19, Thompson sent an inspector out to the TJA bus lot to inspect the buses that were missing two days before, according to the email, and confirmed that they passed inspection.

“I had an IDOT inspector return on Oct. 19 to find that the ‘board’ had found out about this and had all 10 re-inspected at the Official Testing Station,” Thompson wrote. “IDOT also looked the school buses over to ensure safety.”

There are four IDOT-certified inspection stations in McHenry County. It’s unclear which station the buses went to.

“I assume some reprimand is in order for the parties involved, but IDOT has nothing to do with that part,” Thompson wrote to the bus driver.

TJA is overseen by a board member and representatives from both districts and the administration at TJA, Fetzner said. District 47 is the administrative agent, and if a human resources problem arose, District 47 would be in charge of that, he said.

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