The Iowa Department of Education named a new school bus inspector for the state's western region after both the state Board of Education and the legislature approved a nearly 43 percent increase to inspection fees paid by school districts.
Tom Simpson, the former director of transportation for the Humboldt Community School District, was selected from a pool of over 60 applicants as the inspector for the newly established western region. His first day on the job was Wednesday. He joins veteran inspectors Verlan Vos and Joe Funk, who will continue to provide service to the central and east sections, respectively. All three inspectors will work districts of 90 or more vehicles.
Max Christensen, the school transportation consultant for the DOE and current president of NASDPTS, explained that two inspectors were unable to adequately service the approximately 350 school districts in the state. He cited a report published by the Des Moines Register in April that uncovered issues with the state inspections, which included limited time for follow-up inspections after serious defects are found to ensure repairs were made.
Iowa's school transportation office is unique because it is fully funded by fees charged for inspections. School buses in Iowa are inspected twice a year, accounting for nearly 15,000 vehicle inspections annually. With the legislative approval in June to increase the inspection fee per vehicle from $28 to $40 per inspection, the third school bus inspector position was created. The result is a third inspection territory, ending a more than 40-year practice of having just two inspection territories. Inspections will still occur twice per year, and call-back inspections, previously costing $28, will not incur a fee.
"We are so pleased and happy to have Tom joining us," Christensen said. "We truly look forward to working with him, plus he's just a great addition to our school bus inspection team. He has done such a fine job in Humboldt over the years, and his concern for the safety of students riding the bus was very apparent during the interview process. We'll now be able to harness his expertise in helping kids to be safely transported on school buses throughout all of Iowa."
Christensen added that his preference is to have even more school bus inspectors, which are often assisted on rounds by state patrol officers, but that three would have to do for now.