Shelby County School Board last year approved a contract with Durham School Services to provide busing for its students through 2015 at a cost of more than $25 million. Durham’s CEO Emeritus, John Elliot, assured the Shelby County School Board that the company is taking steps to implement a three-point safety plan in response to an ongoing investigation of Durham’s safety procedures and training.

Durham provided incident statistics over the last three years in the service of Memphis and Shelby County, where Durham’s drivers were at fault in nearly half of a total of 251 accidents. In the past three years, Durham School Services had:

  • 2012/2013: 120 accidents/incidents/54 drivers at fault (45%)
  • 2013/2014: 89 accidents/incidents/46 drivers at fault (52%)
  • 2014/2015 (Aug-Oct): 42 accidents/incidents/25 drivers at fault (60%)

Terri Harris, president of the Shelby County Council PTA, has doubts that Durham School Services can properly implement its three-point safety plan. “It sounds like they’re stretching themselves pretty thin and having trouble hiring good drivers. Any time a school district hires a private company for bus service, the priority should be on student safety, not money.”

Durham CEO David Duke promised enhancements to Shelby County School’s contract, including the re-screening of all 1,000 drivers, increased frequency in driver drug and alcohol testing, and an upgraded recruitment plan that was supposed to go into effect in December.

The enhancements to the contract came in the wake of continuous stories of accidents and incidents, including a driver who crashed while on a suspended license for $900 in unpaid traffic fines. Other incidents involved a driver with a felony record who was arrested for possession of marijuana on his bus while on duty.

More recently, Durham School Services bus driver Jennifer Hopper was arrested and will be extradited to Texas for a pending warrant for a felony charge of possession of a controlled substance. The charge stems back to 2013. Durham School Services’ Carina Noble, vice president of communications, insists that Hopper had passed a FBI background check and a third-party background check before being hired October 24 of 2014. According to Noble, Hopper never failed required drugs tests.

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