Are You (Even More) Confused Yet?

Why does everything in this town have to be so complicated?

Remember in the "old" days when your teacher would say, “Let’s review?”

I would love to be able to perform a nice, simple review of the whole issue of school transportation but my editor would send it back with instructions to trim about 10,000 words!

Besides, I’m so confused at this point that a thorough review would be impossible anyway.

The last two pieces to this whole thing that I’ve seen were a communication from the chairman of the Board of Education which, as it turns out, seems to have been issued without the knowledge or consensus of the rest of the board followed by the involvement of the Legislative Council!

The letter I refer to cites two important reasons for why we need to tamper with what has been a very competent, beneficial system of transportation and one which the public obviously wants.

First, it seems we are supposedly paying 33-percent more “for its regular bus route services than the going market rate.”

Where on earth did that number come from? It simply doesn’t square with the bids received from various bus companies.

Also, what is meant by “regular bus routes?” Are they taking into account special education transportation needs, which the owner-operator bid included?

Second, you have the statement that “the district also incurs additional administrative expenses managing 32 separate contractors than it would with a single supplier.”

That’s absurd. Each owner-operator and a board representative signs a contract. Period. Done.

There are so many things about this whole process that are beginning to become infuriating that I hardly know where to start.

First you have key players whose objectivity and interest in the welfare of  our students has long since vanished. Then you have the chairman of the BOE apparently issuing statements on his own.

Combine all of this with irregularities in the bidding process and the subsequent conflicting numbers being fed to the public and you have a very cloudy situation indeed.

A complicating factor in this entire matter is the effort of some to get us to focus on what is in my view a non-issue — bus safety records. 

We’ve seen all sorts of numbers, explanations and references. Why does it matter? Buses take a tremendous beating. They’re going to break down. Let’s concede that when they do, bus companies and the owner-operators alike fix them. They’re not making anyone any money sitting idle.

A second complicating factor in this discussion is the tendency for some to "bird walk" into other areas, i.e., other BOE expenditures, the EA fiasco, etc. 

Can we please stick to the topic?

Finally, why does  politics have to be an issue? There are those who just have to bring political parties into the discussion or, even worse, get personal and often abusive.

On top of the misinformation, politics, introduction of irrelevant issues, we now have the Legislative Council adding their two cents.

The focus of our attention should be who do we want driving our kids to and from school — not what political party endorses a particular position or what the bus looks like or any of the other issues muddying up the waters. 

Why is that so complicated?

In my view the Board of Education has to share much of the blame for this. 

At first glance it looks as though they’re trying to do this the right way but look who most of them are listening to? It certainly isn’t the public. 

This whole thing is beginning to make the recent debt ceiling talks look like a picnic in the park.

To me it comes down to this. The cost of the owner-operator system is not that far out of line. It is the clear choice of the public. So what’s the problem? Sign them to another five years and get it over with.

What’s next? The bus companies and the owner-operators show up for a series of dog and pony shows, parading their shiny new buses and giving their presentations.

And the beat goes on.

Carey Schierloh August 12, 2011 at 07:01 PM
No, towns do not have to provide transportation to every students, and the cities don't. Newtown BOE policy states that students in elementary school can walk up to a mile and high school up to 1.5 miles, but we pick up all students as there are sidewalks only in part of the borough. Population is concentrated in the cities, a bus would not have to go far to be full. Newtown has more area and miles to cover. There are routes where a bus drives 5, 6, 7 miles before picking up a student. It can pick up all the students in that area and return to school with the bus half full b/c the students are so spread out and routes are to be 45 minutes or less per BOE. Cities are different and it is not an apple to apple comparison.
Douglas Brennan August 13, 2011 at 12:45 PM
Robin: Doesn't it seem rather strange for the State of CT to require that every student have a seat on a bus regardless of whether they ever intend to use it or not. Is that efficient? Is that efective? I wonder who was responsible for this? In a modern economy with statistical modeling, forecasting aids and computers does this make sense? Is this really helpful to the environment to have half full buses traveling around town each and every school day?
Douglas Brennan August 13, 2011 at 12:47 PM
Robin A structural change would include eliminating all work rules in contracts with the Town wouldn't it?
Douglas Brennan August 13, 2011 at 12:49 PM
Tom: Isn't this a BOE issue and not an DTC or RTC or Leg. Coun. or Selectment issue?
Susan McGuinness Getzinger August 22, 2011 at 03:18 AM
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