News and Tribune

November 20, 2013

Greater Clark axes GPS device company


CLARK COUNTY — A host of issues, including false dash warning lights and a burned out transmission, led to Greater Clark County Schools’ cancellation of GPS services with GeoTab.

Nine months into their trial with the company, chief financial officer Tom Dykiel said the district plans to enter a 60-day trial with Synovia, another GPS system provider, since the transportation department and its drivers have lost faith in GeoTab’s products and services.

Dykiel said bus drivers found out their warning lights and other issues disappeared once the GPS units were disconnected.

“Some of them are working, but not enough to warrant the entire 115 [in the] fleet,” Dykiel said. “We have some that we’ve never activated just because they’ve been a problem from day one.”

After one bus transmission was destroyed from the system shifting down suddenly, GeoTab had to replace it. Dykiel said though the Canada-based company has its systems in place throughout the United States, engineers said they couldn’t replicate the problems Greater Clark experienced anywhere else.

Andrew Melin, superintendent, said one reason the district chose the company was because of other ways the systems could help reduce costs. The devices also monitored various systems on vehicles, which officials thought would help head off major repairs through preventative maintenance.

“It seemed like things were happening here that were not happening with that company on similar buses around the country,” Melin said. “We took a chance, at the time, we thought it was the best way to go. Obviously, we’re finding out it wasn’t the best way to go, so it’s time to cut our losses. The concept is still important, we just have to find a reliable product.”

Dykiel said Sprint ran the connection service for the units. Through Synovia, he said they’ll try Sprint and Verizon.

Nancy Kraft and Kevin Satterly, board members, both voiced concerns over Sprint’s poor coverage in parts of the district, including New Washington.

Melin said in a trial, they have to be fair to the company.

“Sometimes in the effort to try to do things all the right way, you take some chances, you take some risks, they’re calculated risks,” Melin said.

Guns on school grounds

The district’s administration also removed a policy addition that could have allowed district employees or board members to carry firearms on a school campus.

Sandra Lewis, general counsel, said though there was flexibility for the board to designate employee groups or board members the ability to carry weapons on school grounds, the people who need to carry them already are.

“When we looked at this, we realized criminal law allows [school resource officers] and police officers to be on our property with firearms,” Lewis said. “They are the persons that are trained, the ones who spend countless hours being prepared for emergencies in school settings. Our recommendation from an administrative standpoint is those are the persons that we need on our property with firearms. We don’t need others that have not been trained and properly cautioned as to the uses.”

She said bringing a gun on school property is a class D felony in Indiana.

The board did not have to vote on the measure, but board vice president Mark Pavey said he didn’t disagree with the administration’s views.

“I think I can speak for everyone, that’ll be just fine,” Pavey said.

Other business

The board also passed a policy to require the lyrics and history of the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner” be taught to all elementary students in the district. The measure passed 5-0, with board president Christina Gilkey and board member Tony Hall absent.

The board also unanimously passed a measure for employees to appear in WDRB advertisements for the holidays. The cost of production, filming and script-writing is $3,000.