Skip to main content
Official State of Iowa Website Here is how you know
Decision Number
Transportation Services
Marsha Sears
Ankeny Community School District
Full Text

Marsha Sears is the mother of a student of the Ankeny Community School District. Her child is a student with a disability who receives transportation services between home and school. Ms. Sears did not present details about her child's transportation , but it was clear that she has been very satisfied with the arrangements that have been in place for her child. She is apprehensive not knowing how privatization will affect her child. Through the 2004-05 school year, the District has directly provided its own student transportation with a fleet of vehicles owned by the District. Dr. Mutchler, who has been superintendent since the 2002-03 school year, testified that his predecessor told him that informal conversations with directors and administrators about privatizing this service had occurred from time to time before Dr. Mutchler was hired. No formal action had even been taken however. During the 2004-05 school year, the District's transportation director stated that she intended to exercise her option for early retirement, effective at the end of the 2004-05 school year. At its Regular Board meeting on April 11, the local Board voted 4 ? 3 to approve a motion "that the Superintendent be authorized to negotiate a contract with Durham School Services L.P. for the transportation of students to the Ankeny Community School District and that the proposed contract thereafter be submitted to the Board for its consideration."

The District's rationale for privatization was twofold ? (1) to increase safety of students and (2) to increase efficiency of operations. Ms. Sears wisely does not argue that the District has no authority to privatize student transportation. Such authority is established in Iowa Code sections 285.5 and 285.10. The latter imposes a duty on all local school boards to provide student transportation; the former permits the fulfillment of that duty through contracts with private parties. The points on appeal brought forth by Ms. Sears in this appeal are the following: (1) that the Ankeny Board did not give approval to Dr. Mutchler to seek proposals from private transportation providers and (2) that the decision to privatize was improperly motivated. Because the final decision about privatization was make by the local Board, it is irrelevant how the process started. Once the District began to explore privatization, there is simply no evidence to support the assertion that the process and decision were not fully supported by a majority of the local Board members. For a 16-week period, including at least four open Board meetings, this issue was avidly and publicly debated. The final 4-3 vote in favor of privatization demonstrates the Board's diversity of opinion of privatization. But at no point during the process did the Board instruct Dr. Mutchler or District staff to discontinue the groundwork in progress. If the Board believed, as Ms. Sears suggests, that any of its administrators overstepped his or her job duties, the Board has authority to deal with that administrator has his or her employer. This agency has no evidence that such is the case, and we have no jurisdiction over local employment matters.

As to the rationale behind the Board's decision to privatize, the reasons articulated herein were safety and efficiency (including cost savings). Whether there were other factors that motivated the District is not determinative of the outcome of this appeal. The abuse of discretion standard means that the local Board's decision will be upheld unless shown to be unreasonable or lacking rationality under the attendant circumstances. Sioux City Community School District v. Iowa Department of Education, supra at 566 [citations omitted].

That the decision of the Board of Directors of the Ankeny Community School District made on April 25, 2005 was affirmed.