School board: Bus drivers wanted

Published On: Sep 06 2012 08:45:47 AM EDT

Finally.

Broward Supt. Robert Runcie yesterday finally seemed to take real responsibility for the school bus mess that is still affecting hundreds of families each day. There was no more talk of blaming bus drivers for the problems that left thousands of kids without buses this year. Instead he praised them. And there were hard facts on the problem instead of a bunch of loose talk.

And his hand-picked transportation director from Chicago, the controversial Chester Tindall, announced he was stepping away from his job to go on medical leave. You can see that on the video.

Tindall, walking with a cane, listed his accomplishments before saying he'd neglected his family and his health and that he was leaving for six to eight weeks. This after Tindall had said that very morning in the newspaper -- where he and Runcie had been waging a bizarre and misguided spin campaign about the mess -- that he planned to fight for his job.

Did Runcie tell his old friend that he had to go? We don't know, but after all the misinformation that Runcie's administration spread during the crisis so far, there were whispers at yesterday's meeting that the superintendent himself had been misinformed by Tindall about the real problems gripping the transportation department.

After Tindall's dramatic announcement, Runcie's top lieutenant, Maurice Woods, briefed the board members on the problem. He talked about the driver shortage (the district still needs to hire 50 more to cover all the routes), the software troubles, the fact that the district failed to get bus info to parents before the school year began. For the first time he tallied up the number of kids who had been affected by the bus crisis: 3,800. And the number of routes still short-handed: 76. 

And he said the administration hoped to solve the problem by September 20, which he said he could accomplish if he can get those school bus drivers hired. It's not easy: they have to pass an extensive background check, have a commercial driver's license, be willing to get up very early in the morning, and work for $11 an hour. No wonder Runcie has developed what he called a "heightened sense of respect" for those employees. And maybe now that he seems to have run out of excuses and spin, the problem might actually get fixed.