ECCO Ride introduces new terminal manager


Implements new programs and incentives

By Carolyn Roy,

While most of the school board meeting Nov. 7 was about the selection process for a superintendent, there was other news. Ryan Johnson is a representative for ECCO Ride, the transportation system for the school board. He introduced new terminal manager Michael Babin and service and communications director Melissa Blake.

Babin is a former firefighter who went to work for Ecco Ride in 2018 as a driver and was hired as terminal manager in June. He gave the board written reports of 10, 30 and 90 day updates about changes in the transportation system. Cameras and radios have been installed in buses for better communication with drivers. He said the company strives to create a family atmosphere among its employees. He has implemented numerous measures for hiring and retention of drivers. Within the last 10 days, he has begun referral bonuses for employees and has hired three new drivers.

One is a coach at Natchitoches Central and he hopes to reach out to other coaches to recruit them as drivers. Babin has added more recurring banners, is seeking input through a CARE committee, has begun a short-term perfect attendance award, will have a holiday meal and raffle, will name an employee of the month and has started other employee appreciation measures. Blake will conduct a job fair at a local grocery Nov. 16.

One of her main duties will be to communicate with parents. She is a former driver. In other business, the board agreed to let Russ Danzy to seek requests for proposals for four new class rooms at Provencal Elementary/Jr. High. This is a preliminary move to determine what the costs will be. Danzy said there is a dire need for classrooms to accommodate the increase in student population that occurred when around 100 students were assigned to Provencal when the Cloutierville school closed.

There are also a number of Natchez area students attending the school. Danzy wants permanent classrooms. The board previously transferred $450,000 to the Provencal school from the Cloutierville tax fund after Cloutierville closed. Also related to the vacant Cloutierville school, the board has a price of $32,000 for an annual property insurance premium with a $50,000 deductible for $7 million coverage.

Board member Reba Phelps said the bid seemed high and suggested that the board get bids from other insurers. Supervisor of Finance Richard Foshee said that $6,566 dollars remained in the Cloutierville School Activity Fund when the school closed.

The money has been allocated to activity funds at the schools the Cloutierville students now attend. The board unanimously agreed to contract with Save the Children, the organization that operates the Head Start program. In a fully-reimbursed program, the lunchrooms will feed 78 students, four toddlers and 12 office staff of the Head Start program that is housed at L.P. Vaughn and Fairview Alpha. It is at no cost to the board.

The board amended a policy regarding orchestra restricted funds. They can be used at elementary and middle schools and for band activities.