SINT MAARTEN (GREAT BAY, (DCOMM) – The Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports (MECYS) Hon. Rodolphe Samuel, on Sunday in a statement said the Government of Sint Maarten has approved the highly anticipated Service Level Agreement (SLA) between the Government and School Bus Operators.
“This represents a significant milestone in the continuous efforts of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth, and Sport to enhance the quality and efficiency of services provided to students and the public.
“The journey towards the attainment of this milestone has been characterized by rigorous evaluation, collaboration, and a commitment to the betterment of education and student services within St. Maarten. The approved SLA, which went into effect on September 15, 2023, represents the culmination of a thorough and transparent process that aims to benefit the Government, operators, and, most importantly, the end-users.
“Agreements have already been signed with several operators demonstrating their commitment to providing the best possible services to our citizens. The Ministry is looking forward to moving forward with all 25 operators as the Ministry seeks to honor existing relationships with bus operators.
“To clarify any concerns of operators, a meeting was held with the SSBOA on Friday, September 15, 2023, with the Board and the Minister of ECYS. All concerns of the board were addressed and a commitment was made to meet within two weeks after all operators had signed off on the agreement, to discuss the way forward related to matters including review of compensation, introduction of fleet management system, etc.
“The SSBOA board informed the Minister of ECYS that they would discuss the outcome of the meeting with their membership during a meeting that was to be convened on the same weekend. The Minister is still awaiting an update from the board.
“According to the SSBOA’s Lawyer, Cor Merx, the industrial action started by the St. Maarten School Bus Owners Association (SSBOA) and its membership on Friday, September 22, 2203, a result of requests that have been made for an increase in compensation or a commitment related to same before signing off on the agreement.
“However, during extensive discussions with the SSBOA on September 15, 2023, the Minister of ECYS outlined that the agreement has provisions in place to ensure that the required compensation review is done in collaboration with school bus operators.
“Despite this, regrettably, the SSBOA has continued to advise its members not to sign off on the Joint Agreement, a position which placed the safety and well-being of students at risk with its threats of a “Go Slow” and possible strike.
“In response the Ministry has sought to collaborate with TEATT to ensure continuity of services, the Police Department to maintain order and safety, and school boards, schools, and parents to ensure minimum disruption and most importantly the safety of all students,” the statement from the Minister of Education Rodolphe Samuel said on Sunday.
Key Benefits of the Approved SLA:
The recently approved Service Level Agreement (SLA) is a significant milestone in our commitment to enhancing education and student services. This achievement offers multiple benefits.
Firstly, it establishes clear and stringent service delivery standards, ensuring the consistently high quality of educational and student services, thereby enhancing the overall experience for students and program participants.
Furthermore, the SLA elevates accountability among operators through performance measurement and assessments, leading to more effective and responsible service management.
It also promotes efficient resource allocation, ensuring optimal use of public funds, and strengthens collaboration between the Government and operators, fostering dynamic and responsive partnerships for better citizen service.
These efforts contribute to a more efficient, accountable, and responsive education and student services ecosystem.
The approved SLA is a comprehensive framework designed to improve student bussing services, promoting collaboration and adaptability between the Government and operators. Article 1.2 allows for periodic reviews of compensation and routes to adapt to changing needs. Article 9 encourages regular consultations to address challenges and promote improvements.
Lastly, Article 16 enables future amendments with both parties' agreement, ensuring the SLA remains effective amidst evolving circumstances.
In connection with this, the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport has committed to meeting with school bus operators two after all agreements have been signed to begin discussions related to areas for improvement.
Implementation of Fleet and Student Tracking System:
In addition, as part of the Ministry’s commitment to continually enhance services, the Ministry is also in the process of procuring a state-of-the-art Fleet and Student Tracking System.
This innovative system will provide real-time tracking of student transportation, ensuring their safety and on-time arrivals. It will also enable better resource management, further optimizing service delivery.
The Ministry of ECYS remains committed to working closely with operators and stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of the SLA and the upcoming Fleet and Student Tracking System.