TERRY BRANSTAD, GOVERNOR

KIM REYNOLDS, LT. GOVERNOR

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
BRAD A. BUCK, DIRECTOR

May 9, 2014
Dr. Marlene Johnson, Supt.
Columbus Community School District
1208 Colton Street
Columbus Junction, Iowa 52738
Dr. Johnson;
A school bus inspector with the Iowa Department of Education visited your district on Thursday, May 8 th in
regards to call-back inspections on school buses that had been inspected initially on February 28, 2014. At
the initial inspection in February, nearly all buses were found to have deficiencies. Inspection deficiencies
fall into three categories:
1. Notes: these items are minor and typically don’t require an immediate repair but rather just put
you on alert to upcoming concerns
2. 30-day repairs: these items need to be repaired within 30 calendar days and typically are not
major safety concerns, thus allowing the vehicle to be used for student transportation during the
30-day repair timeframe
3. Out-of service (OOS): items that impact the immediate safety of the vehicle and need to be fixed
prior to the vehicle being used again for student transportation
In addition, once a 30-day repair item rolls over past the 30 days allowed for repair, that vehicle then
becomes an OOS vehicle, thus falling into the guidelines of not being allowed to transport students until
repairs have been made.
In the time period between the initial inspection in February and the call back inspection on May 8 th, a
number of emails went back and forth between the DE inspector, Joe Funk, and your school, which
included both you and your transportation director, Azure VanAuken. Per those emails, promises were
made on a number of occasions that repairs either had been made or would be made by the end of the day
(April 7). An Iowa State Patrol trooper personally observed students being transported on most of your
district buses on April 11th. By this time, any bus that had not been repaired would have rolled over to an
OOS per DE inspection guidelines and thus would have been disallowed from use for student
transportation.
Upon the call-back inspection on May 8th, six of the district vehicles were still found to have not been
repaired, yet had been observed transporting students on April 11 th. Though direct observation has not
been made since that time in regards to those vehicles being used for transportation, it’s very likely they
have continued to be used since being directly observed in April.
As of May 8th, the buses still in need of repair from the initial inspection on February 28th, along with
inspector comments included:
#13 Still had the black sharpie X that I put on the thermopane window. Reported as repaired.
#14 Tailpipe was still missing clamp and had hole in the exhaust pipe. Reported as repaired.
#3 Stepwell light still inoperable, You could tell that the rusty screws have not been out. Reported as
repaired.
#4 Oil leak was still so bad that there was oil all over the axle and on the ground. Reported as repaired.
#6 Exhaust pipe behind the muffler was still almost broke in half. Reported as repaired.
Grimes State Office Building - 400 E 14th St - Des Moines IA 50319-0146
PHONE (515) 281-5294 FAX (515) 242-5988
www.educateiowa.gov
Championing Excellence for all Iowa Students through Leadership and Service

#V2 Had a front tire that had bad uneven tire wear on the day of their inspection. I gave them 30 days to
put a new tire on. They rotated that tire to the rear and today that tire was bald on the outside edge. I did
put this vehicle out of service do to how unsafe it was. And yes it did go out on route this morning.
In addition and as noted by the inspector, prior to the call-back inspection on May 8th, Columbus CSD had
reported via the DE online inspection repair system that all repairs had been made on district buses, which
in fact was not the case. This, in pure and simple terms, amounts to fraud.
The Department of Education protocol for falsification of school bus inspection repairs and/or use of outof-service (OOS) vehicles for student transportation is as follows:
1. Report the situation to local school district officials, including:
a. Transportation Director
b. Superintendent
c. School Board President
2. Report the situation to the Iowa State Patrol for any possible legal action or charges to be filed.
3. Per the Iowa Freedom of Information Act and Open Records Law, if requested, the DE would be
under obligation to share any and all inspection records with any member of the public, including
the media.
As a reminder, Iowa Code 285.15 clearly states that any superintendent found guilty of knowingly
operating or permitting to be operated any school bus in violation of any school transportation law
(includes inspection criteria) shall be deemed guilty of a simple misdemeanor:
285.15 Forfeiture of reimbursement rights.
The failure of any local district to comply with the provisions of this chapter or any
other laws relating to the transportation of pupils, or any rules made by the department
of education under this chapter or the final decisions of the area education agency board,
or the final decisions of the department of education shall during the period such failure
to comply existed forfeit the rights to collect transportation costs from school or parents
while operating in such illegal manner. Any superintendent, board, or board member who
knowingly operates or permits to be operated any school bus transporting public school
pupils in violation of any school transportation law shall be deemed guilty of a simple
misdemeanor.

Please find enclosed the following supporting documents:
1. Inspection summary from the initial inspection conducted on February 28, 2014
2. Inspection summary from the call-back inspection conducted on May 8, 2014
3. “School Bus Inspection Information” sheet provided to all Iowa school districts via email on
August 29, 2013
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments. Per protocol, a copy of this letter will also be
sent to your transportation director, school board president, and the Iowa State Patrol.
Regards,
Jeff Berger, Ph.D.
Deputy Director
Iowa Department of Education
400 E. 14th. Street
Des Moines, IA 50319
(515) 281-3968 Work
(515) 250-3728 Cell
(515) 242-5988 Fax
jeff.berger@iowa.gov
www.educateiowa.gov