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McLean County Unit District No. 5

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McLean County Unit District No. 5Fine Tuning for Maximum Performance

Tyler's VersaTrans Assist Provides Custom Support to Meet District's Unique Needs

The McLean County Unit District No. 5, which serves McLean and Woodford counties in Illinois, transports over 11,000 students each day and its buses travel 1.5 million miles over the course of the school year. Just four years prior, the district's buses traveled half a million miles less - a clear indication of the rapid growth that Unit 5, as it is known locally, has experienced.

This growth, along with an upcoming conversion to a three-tiered transportation schedule, prompted Wes Caldwell, Unit 5's Routing Coordinator, to review how his team was using Tyler's VersaTrans RP. Caldwell and his team had been using the software for several years with much success but Caldwell wanted to ensure that they were operating as efficiently as possible. To do this, he signed up for a new service called VersaTrans Assist.

VersaTrans Assist is a completely customizable service designed to help transportation departments maximize the performance of VersaTrans RP. This service provides an on-site specialist to help VersaTrans clients get the most out of their software. The VersaTrans Assist specialists work alongside the transportation department team members, guided by their specific needs.

For McLean County Unit District No. 5, VersaTrans sent specialist Rob Randaisi who, Caldwell says, “did much more than just assist.” Randaisi identified areas where VersaTrans RP could be fine tuned to achieve better results. He also provided Caldwell with instructions on new features and upgrades that had been added to VersaTrans RP, but that Caldwell and his team had not yet had time to implement.

For example, when reviewing the district’s map, Randaisi noticed that the scale was off for some of the subdivisions, which was easily corrected using raster maps. Randaisi worked side-by-side with Caldwell’s team to show them how to correct and improve their map using the software. This provided the team with the skills to work on raster maps after Randaisi left. “I was amazed at how much I was able to do after Rob left,” says Caldwell. “The knowledge that Rob gave [my team] helped immensely.”

Caldwell and his team went to work to refine other areas of the map, using raster maps, a task that will enable them to, as he says, “stay one step ahead of the growth.” In fact, since they refined their map, two new subdivisions have been added. Using the techniques that Randaisi showed him, Caldwell was able to add the new subdivisions to the district map with confidence, knowing that all of the data in VersaTrans RP is accurate.

Randaisi’s support has also helped Caldwell’s team save time. In the past, the team would create maps of new areas by physically driving the roads. The maps would then be plotted out on paper and scaled by hand. The entire process typically took two to three days per map. Now, with the raster map tips that Randaisi shared as part of VersaTrans Assist, Caldwell can complete a map and add it to the district map in VersaTrans RP in 10 minutes.

With the mapping process improved, Caldwell and Randaisi moved on to another challenge: a set of addresses that were appearing incomplete and causing significant problems for Caldwell’s team. At first glance, it seemed that the addresses were not transferring properly through the Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF) into VersaTrans RP. However, when Caldwell and Randaisi investigated the problem further, they found that the cause was a simple input error. Once this error was identified, the administrative staff members who input the address data were shown the correct process and the addresses were re-imported into VersaTrans RP.

This fix has reduced the time-consuming data entry and data cleaning tasks for Caldwell and his team. “I had been working backward, trying to locate the correct address information,” says Caldwell. Now, he feels assured that the data in his software is accurate.

“The best thing about VersaTrans Assist is that I now have the confidence that our department can get everything done in a timely manner.” This will be critical as Unit 5 converts to a three-tiered transportation system, starting in 2009. Under the new system, the district will transport elementary, junior high and senior high students separately. This will allow the district to maintain its present bus fleet, while responding to increased enrollment.

Caldwell knows that he will have to monitor the new routes and the locations of the stops to ensure continued efficiency with the three-tiered transportation system. With the knowledge and tools he gained from his VersaTrans Assist session, he is well positioned to respond quickly and effectively to any changes that may come his way.

Unit 5’s rapid growth is no longer a concern for Caldwell and his team. The department has thoughtfully planned for the future and their VersaTrans software has been fine-tuned to their unique requirements, which will help them implement their plans seamlessly. Now, when Caldwell goes home at the end of the day he does so knowing that he can accomplish more and stay one step ahead of the changes the district is experiencing. He even has time to enjoy a nice round of golf now and then — worry-free.


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