The bus system was masterfully efficient as it was -- even the computers agreed.
But by tweaking routes just a bit more via an optimization study and advanced Edulog software, the Ridgefield School District found it could do with one less bus this year for a savings of about $83 thousand (after the software costs), according to district business manager Paul Hendrickson.
With those funds now in place and around $62 thousand saved by staying under budget in certified staffing for 2011-12, the Board of Education voted Monday night to hire a K-5 Literacy Department Chair for the coming school year.
The district made clear during April's budget season that the literacy chair had been identified as a need but the $100-thousand-plus-benefits salary didn't fit into the funds approved by the Board of Finance.
And unlike last year, the district was able to meet budgeted staff-turnover projections, entering the new year without a deficit. Superintendent Deborah Low credited all three with providing the opportunity to fill the literacy position.
"The need has been there for a while," Low said. "I feel there's a door open here, an opportunity we need to take."
Currently, the literacy program is staffed by part-time outside consultants.
Low mentioned the newly adopted inter-state Common Core Standards Connecticut schools will need to meet by 2014-15 and said theliteracy chair would play an important role in rising to those standards.
The bus-route savings came as good news to the district, and did so by a small margin.
The routing system formerly in place almost had the Edulog software at a loss for improvement, reported technology manager Josh Smith and transportation manager Rick Lupinacci, clearly proud of their prior work as well as the new savings.
Smith read from the Edulog draft report: "It is very unusual for us not to be able to find savings in any operation, but even with all out sophisticated optimizing tools, we were simply not able to find much room for improvement in this case. The current runs are efficient and well planned out."
But it turned out the software was able to find that one bus route to be eliminated.