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Bus Talks Lead To FOI Concerns

Published: November 23, 2012

ELIZA HALLABECK

    Bus Talks Lead To FOI Concerns

    By Eliza Hallabeck

    A transportation update at the Board of Education’s meeting on Tuesday, November 20, sparked concerns by two members that conversations with All-Star Transportation were not handled by the full board or in a public meeting.

    School board Chair Debbie Leidlein said the most recent conversation with All-Star led to the consensus that the longer bus routes would be looked into, and times would be improved.

    Board Vice Chair Laura Roche read a letter from Richard Dufour of All-Star Transportation at the meeting, “I have identified five [Reed Intermediate School/St Rose of Lima School] routes that are 45 minutes long in the [morning]… I’ve also identified three routes that are not getting to Reed on time in the [morning].”

    On Friday, November 16, two Tier 2 routes were added, according to the update from Mr Dufour, and beginning stops were also removed from two routes and changed to other routes to shorten bus ride times for those routes by 15 to 20 minutes.

    Due to the holiday this week, Mr Dufour’s update said no changes will be made to routes this week, but changes to four other bus routes are scheduled for November 30.

    “We continue to [ask] the drivers not to rush and to maintain the focus on safety,” read Ms Roche from the update.

    School board member John Vouros, who also attended the most recent meeting with All-Star, said the transportation company’s “well-intended efforts” are appreciated.

    “The traffic issue is still, I think, an issue at Reed and the high school,” said Mr Vouros.

    After school board member William Hart asked for a cost associated with adding buses to Tier 2 routes, school district Business Director Ronald Bienkowski said the cost associated with additional fuel is already budgeted, but had the board chosen not to ask for additional buses for Tier 2 routes money would have been saved. The vehicles, Ms Roche said, that will be used to add additional routes are also already supplied by All-Star.

    After noting he has missed meetings, Mr Hart asked for an explanation on whether the school board now has a transportation subcommittee meeting with All-Star.

    “I, as the chair, call the meetings in order to meet with All-Star in order to talk about some of the issues that we’ve been having with transportation,” said Ms Leidlein. “[Ms Roche] has been monitoring transportation on a regular basis from the beginning of the school year, and so I asked her to attend some of the meetings and speak to what she saw. And [Mr Vouros] attended the last meeting, because he monitored what was going on at the high school for a couple of days.”

    The meetings with All-Star have not been noticed for the public, Ms Leidlein said, because they are not meetings of the board. Members of the public have attended meetings, Ms Leidlein said.

    “But it is a de-facto meeting of the board,” said Mr Hart. “It’s multiple members of the board meeting to discuss board business.”

    Ms Leidlein said she felt she had to call the meetings to make sure issues were addressed.

    Noting his concern the meetings are not in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act, Mr Hart said the public needs to be notified about meetings.

    Ms Leidlein said she will check to make sure the meetings are in compliance.

    Board member Richard Gaines also said he is concerned the school board did not decide as a board how to direct All-Star regarding the transportation issues. Through e-mails, Mr Gaines said he asked questions before the last meeting with All-Star was held, and was told to “cease and desist with my questioning.”

    “I asked if the meeting would be noticed, because it appeared that board business was going to be done, it was copied to the board, it was not a noticed meeting, and direction was given to a vender,” said Mr Gaines.

    With many e-mails from the public, students arriving 10 to 15 minutes late, and, Ms Leidlein said, “when asked, the administration stated that that was better than last year and that was okay, my concern was that it was not okay. And I needed to take action in order to make the necessary adjustments so that did not continue to happen in the future.”

    Also during the meeting, the school board discussed budget goals for the upcoming budget season. No decision was made on budget goals, but BOE member Keith Alexander asked the administration to take note of the board members intentions while the first proposed 2013-14 budget is prepared.

    Budget goals discussed included communication, funding full-day kindergarten, providing funding for technology, and having financial support for Common Core State Standards mandates and new high school graduation requirements.