.

Meet Marsha Moskowitz and Phil Carroll

Let’s connect names and faces to the school transportation issue.

I’m guessing that unless you have children going to one of the elementary schools, you more than likely don’t know who your children’s bus drivers are.

Oh sure, one way or another, unless you’ve been asleep for the past several months, you’ve heard about the school transportation issue and the various controversies surrounding it but do you really know anything about who some of these folks are, their names or what they even look like?

In an effort to put a more "human" face to this issue, I met recently with two owner operators, Phil Carroll and Marsha Moskowitz. 

In the event you are still somewhat out of the loop let me briefly explain that for the last 80 or so years, Newtown school children have been transported to and from school by individuals who live in Newtown and own their own buses as opposed to those who drive for a large fleet company.

Starting in the fall of 2012, this system will end. All Star Transportation, based in Torrington, Connecticut, has been awarded a contract to provide transportation services for the next five years.

Phil and Marsha have been owner operators and Newtown residents for many years. Phil has a very long history in Newtown and he’s been an owner-operator for 16 years. Marsha also has lived in Newtown for many years and been an owner-operator for about a dozen years.  Even before purchasing a bus and signing an owner-operator contract, Marsha was a substitute driver.

I met with them recently to try to get a sense for how they, and through their conversations, the other owner operators, feel about what has been going on and their plans for the future.

Phil and Marsha report they haven’t decided what the next step is going to be for them. 

Like many of the other drivers, it’s not just a simple matter of walking away and finding another job.  They have a very tangible asset involved — an $80,000 school bus. You don’t just drive up to your local school bus broker and come away with a fistful of money. You need to find a buyer, sell it and more than likely take a loss.

On top of that some of the O/Os put their houses up as collateral against the loan they received to buy the bus. Now their houses are at stake. In fact Phil and Marsha report that most of their colleagues will be forced to leave town.

Even if they got another job driving for another bus company for, say, $13 to $15 an hour for six hours a day for 180 or so days…well, you do the math. Can you afford to live in Newtown (or anywhere else) on that? Me neither.

In addition to the financial hardship and uncertainty for the future faced by these folks, their biggest regret is not being able to see the children and parents they’ve been serving every day. They don’t look upon themselves as simple employees. They’re in every sense of the word public servants.  They genuinely care about what they do and who they serve.

Coupled to this regret, though, is no small measure of anger and frustration for what they generally view as a complete betrayal and conspiracy at the highest levels.

Their thinking is that they have been victimized and targeted from Day One. But, in spite of what we read and hear, many of the owner operators cling to the belief that this is not a done deal by a long shot. That's something we'll have to wait and see about. 

One last thing. As I sat there in the Panera Bread Diner, talking to Phil and Marsha, I was amazed at the number of people who came up and greeted them.

They truly are part of our community – but, for now at least, it appears to be the end of a long, valuable tradition unique to Newtown. 

Sawyer October 12, 2011 at 10:02 PM
Mr. Bittman, Leaders manage their way through these challenging issues. That is why they are hired with the supposed skills to manage. This BOE and Superintendent do not appear to possess these skills. Why is it necessary for the Superintendent to consistently contact the Board Attorney every time she is required to make a tough decision. We might as well fire her and hire the attorney to do her job. Attend any BOE meeting and what you get is a silent Superintendent and an arrogant BOE Chair who thinks he is empowered to do whatever he wants. And with all due respect, the hire of this inexperienced Superintendent is costing Newtown!
Sawyer October 13, 2011 at 10:39 AM
Sam, my answer would be "nay" and a beacon (help) signal to Dr. John Reed!
yoda October 13, 2011 at 10:49 PM
YOU WHOOOOOOOOOO- vote of confidence worked on the MOVIE Starwars- do you think it works in the real world?
Nancy Hintze October 15, 2011 at 03:37 AM
To return to the focus of the article, the individual bus drivers and the uncertainty of their futures and the gratitude we have for their service.... Next week is Bus Driver Appreciation at my kids' elementary school. We plan to shower our beloved Ms. Nancy with as much appreciation as we can. For the past four years, she has watched over my little ones with such care and has shown kindness and understanding toward them and me. I'm sure many others in our community feel the same. Let's all be sure to give a heartfelt thanks to a bus driver next week.
Kevin Fitzgerald October 15, 2011 at 04:04 AM
Well said Nancy. Thank you for the reminder.

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