A Huntsville, Alabama, firm has identified several areas in which the East Feliciana Parish school system could become more efficient.

LEAN Frog, which serves public schools in the southeastern United States, conducted a study of East Feliciana’s strengths and weaknesses in three areas: transportation, finance and personnel, and maintenance and custodial operations.

The team reported its initial findings at the Nov. 3 School Board meeting. A more-detailed report will follow, said Byron Headrick, a principal in the firm.

Strengths identified in the study include:

The district’s ratio of debt principal to revenue, 17.36 percent, is better than national comparatives, as is the debt servicing ratio to revenue.

Ninety-eight percent of district employees are paid through direct deposits to their bank accounts, a figure comparable to “best in class” national figures.

No errors were made in W2 processing last year.

The maintenance department conducts a formal, documented facilities assessment annually.

Since the firm’s assessment, the district has begun a standardized custodial inspection program that assigns letter grades to each area inspected.

The district has begun an energy management program with the possibility of saving $128,000 a year.

Since the assessment, the district has started a program to motivate and help uncertified teachers gain certification.

The company recommended a detailed efficiency review for the parish’s transportation department, noting the busing program costs more than those of other school systems nationally and in the southeast.

East Feliciana has the highest cost per bus mile, cost per rider per day and annual cost per route than comparable school systems in Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia, the interim report says.

Buses run at 69.9 percent of capacity, with average route times of 70 minutes and with more than 320 “dead miles” per day.

The firm recommended a cost review of contracted bus service rather than parish ownership, as well as studies of preventative maintenance and route design.

The district also should advertise the need for substitute bus drivers and the impact that drivers have on the lives of students, using fliers, yard signs and other means to reach parents.

The amount spent on routine maintenance of schools is higher than national median comparisons but could be explained by the district including capital expenditures in the total cost, the report says.

The company recommends developing a plan to ensure that students have “sustainable learning environments,” and said the parish’s corrective maintenance program is slow and cumbersome because it is managed by paper work orders.

Although 98 percent of employees use direct payroll deposits, the payroll cost of $9.52 per check or deposit is significantly higher than national comparisons, the report says.

The company also recommends developing systems to increase competitive bidding for items bought by each department and school.