.

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. 

CB October 11, 2011 at 05:49 PM
Tom, how do you think its alright for you to make false statements about " tires being slashed" with no proof? If you knew your facts the car was taken to the garage and was found to have a bad valve stem. But feel free to past on rumors.
Tom Bittman October 11, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Mr. Bolinsky, I believe that Newtown is almost entirely a "civil and caring community", as you say. But unfortunately some people would like to change that - you yourself called five sitting board members a "puppet gang of BOE assassins." Maybe you chuckle as you write that, but it only takes one person to take it too far, and it's happened elsewhere. I have no respect for politicians like you who try to inspire anger. I have tremendous respect for politicians who inspire community - I wish the RTC, DTC and IPN committees would focus on building us up, rather than tearing us down. Is that too much to ask? (I've removed a statement about tire-slashing during the last batch of negotiations - this was something I had heard and if it isn't true - and I'll assume now it isn't - I'm very relieved).
CB October 11, 2011 at 06:10 PM
Po, When the IPN endorsed BOE Chairperson violated Ms Fetcheks rights as found by the State FOI Commission,you were strangly silent. I quess it's alright for a IPN lead board to attack someone without calling for them to step down?
Debbie October 11, 2011 at 07:13 PM
Wow!! In all of my readings here on the Patch I have to tell you that the only party that I have not witnessed slinging mud or name calling is the IPN. I am a registered Republican but, man oh man I don't know any more. I am really disappointed with so many of the elected Republicans and Democrats for what they have written here. So disappointing to see so many people stoop so low over politics. Kevin Firzgerald, I commend you for all of your level headedness here. You truly try to make your point and stay respectful. I give you and Po too, a lot of credit. Wow!
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com October 11, 2011 at 08:55 PM
Cb you are right the BOE made a mistake in not discussing the issue with Kathy in public. What has been lost in all the politics is that the BOE was trying to discuss Kathy's performance as a board member and tried to do it privately and discreetly. The issue became when it was done, rather than what the board wanted to communicate to her.
Beth Koschel October 11, 2011 at 09:03 PM
Tom, I appreciate you removing the remark. Too many times people post information here without having the facts. I know that there was an incident regarding an employees vehicle sustaining some damage in the then BOE parking lot. Based upon where that vehicle was usually parked it could have easily been backed into by anyone conducting business at a town office. To assume it was vandalism just because that person was involved in negotiations at the time was ridiculous and a bit paranoid. Some things can be definitively found to be purposely done but I don't find that every time I come out of a grocery store and discover a dent in my car that someone is out to get me. In regards to attacking people, I agree, it is never the best way to go, although I have to be honest, I have felt on the receiving end of attacks more times than I care to count the past few months.
Kathy Fetchick October 12, 2011 at 01:49 AM
Bruce, One of your campaign promises (IPN Express, 8/20/2009) was "Executive sessions to be held only when absolutely necessary. The public will be advised as to exactly what the topic of discussion will be." In respect to my complaint, it was found that the BOE violated several FOI statutes. Furthermore, the BOE has yet to fully comply with the results of the hearing - thanks for reminding me. The last remaining issue was to amend the minutes of April 6, 2010 which would allow you and anyone else to truly understand what happened during that illegal executive session. Since you were not present for that BOE meeting or the executive session or the FOI hearing (which was Public), I would respectfully ask that you refrain from commenting. I would expect that given your "promise" in respect to executive sessions, you would understand my convictions in this area.
Mitch Bolinsky October 12, 2011 at 04:05 AM
Po, I'm sorry if the word "assassins" offended you. Perhaps I could change my reference to "the individuals who chose to ignore an overwhelming call for fairness expressed by a clear & vocal voting majority, in order to precipitate job losses for 40 Newtowners & the loss of an 8-decades old institution"? Sound better? While we're on the subject of sounds, countless voters, candidates & neighbors have repeatedly asked IPN party members about their position on the O/O debacle. No response. The sound of silence. Another question: Would you kindly explain the disconnect between IPN's website statement: "...Independent Party of Newtown declared their intention to work with the town’s citizens to create an improved quality of life for our community and to forge a government that is of the people, by the people and for the people." and the actions of the IPN-led Board of Ed who, against the overwhelming will of the people, hurried to put 40 other people out of work, while exposing the town's people to a potential $4 million labor action? Besides your comments, the only "unprofessional" & "unacceptable" thing here is your refusal to articulate a stand on the O/O issue, despite calls to do so. And finally, to your "unethical" inference, I stand 100% on my intergrity & ability to toss off your silly rhetoric. Last question: Wasn't it you who called the Dept of Labor, represented yourself as a Newtown official & invited an investigation that cost taxpayers $600,000? Ethical?
Mitch Bolinsky October 12, 2011 at 04:54 AM
Mr. Bittman, I apologize for my emotional choice of words, referring to the BOE 5 (Bill Hart, Andrew Buzzi, Lillian Bittman, Richard Gaines & Keith Alexander) as "assassins". I'm especially sorry the word offended you. Perhaps I could change my reference to "the individuals who chose to ignore an overwhelming call for fairness expressed by a clear & vocal voting majority, in order to precipitate job losses for 40 Newtowners & the loss of an 8-decades old institution"? And, for the record, I am not a "politician", just a local volunteer and family man who believes that elected officials have a responsibility to the voters who seated them. As a family man, I respect that you are defending your spouse, I'd do the same. However, in this instance she was swept up in and voted for a shameful injustice that was improperly expedited to seal the fate of 40 soon-to-be out of work neighbors. Before the Board and in writing, I never asked that we hand over the transportation contract to the O/Os if the apples-to-apples comparison was found to cost an additional $300k per year. My pleas were not very different than the public outcry to simply slow down and ensure fairness. The community's will was deafening, right up to the realization that our voices mattered only to Debbie Leidlein...the lone vote for fairness. P.S. to Beth: Thank you for clarifying that no tires were slashed. I, like Mr. Bittman, was relieved to learn it was not true.
Sam Mihailoff October 12, 2011 at 05:59 AM
Sam Mihailoff 3:54am on Sunday, October 9, 2011 Asking how the 5% reduction will take place and from what specific areas the 5% reduction shall be taken, seems reasonable questions. Nice to see you making comment Bill. I was beginning to think your candidacy was fiction. So, now that you have popped in for a visit, how about answering the question. You, Po, anybody... YOU-HOO........ I'M STILL WAITING...perhaps I should get out my refracting telescope and look to the heavens for any airborne swine
Sam Mihailoff October 12, 2011 at 05:59 AM
Sam Mihailoff 3:54am on Sunday, October 9, 2011 Asking how the 5% reduction will take place and from what specific areas the 5% reduction shall be taken, seems reasonable questions. Nice to see you making comment Bill. I was beginning to think your candidacy was fiction. So, now that you have popped in for a visit, how about answering the question. You, Po, anybody... YOU-HOO........ I'M STILL WAITING...perhaps I should get out my refracting telescope and look to the heavens for any airborne swine
Sam Mihailoff October 12, 2011 at 06:00 AM
Sam Mihailoff 3:54am on Sunday, October 9, 2011 Asking how the 5% reduction will take place and from what specific areas the 5% reduction shall be taken, seems reasonable questions. Nice to see you making comment Bill. I was beginning to think your candidacy was fiction. So, now that you have popped in for a visit, how about answering the question. You, Po, anybody... YOU-HOO........ I'M STILL WAITING...perhaps I should get out my refracting telescope and look to the heavens for any airborne swine
Sam Mihailoff October 12, 2011 at 06:02 AM
Sam Mihailoff 3:54am on Sunday, October 9, 2011 Asking how the 5% reduction will take place and from what specific areas the 5% reduction shall be taken, seems reasonable questions. Nice to see you making comment Bill. I was beginning to think your candidacy was fiction. So, now that you have popped in for a visit, how about answering the question. You, Po, anybody... YOU-HOO........ I'M STILL WAITING...perhaps I should get out my refracting telescope and look to the heavens for any airborne swine
Sam Mihailoff October 12, 2011 at 06:02 AM
Sam Mihailoff 3:54am on Sunday, October 9, 2011 Asking how the 5% reduction will take place and from what specific areas the 5% reduction shall be taken, seems reasonable questions. Nice to see you making comment Bill. I was beginning to think your candidacy was fiction. So, now that you have popped in for a visit, how about answering the question. You, Po, anybody... YOU-HOO........ I'M STILL WAITING...perhaps I should get out my refracting telescope and look to the heavens for any airborne swine
Sam Mihailoff October 12, 2011 at 06:03 AM
Sam Mihailoff 3:54am on Sunday, October 9, 2011 Asking how the 5% reduction will take place and from what specific areas the 5% reduction shall be taken, seems reasonable questions. Nice to see you making comment Bill. I was beginning to think your candidacy was fiction. So, now that you have popped in for a visit, how about answering the question. You, Po, anybody... YOU-HOO........ I'M STILL WAITING...perhaps I should get out my refracting telescope and look to the heavens for any airborne swine
Sam Mihailoff October 12, 2011 at 06:03 AM
Sam Mihailoff 3:54am on Sunday, October 9, 2011 Asking how the 5% reduction will take place and from what specific areas the 5% reduction shall be taken, seems reasonable questions. Nice to see you making comment Bill. I was beginning to think your candidacy was fiction. So, now that you have popped in for a visit, how about answering the question. You, Po, anybody... YOU-HOO........ I'M STILL WAITING...perhaps I should get out my refracting telescope and look to the heavens for any airborne swine
Sam Mihailoff October 12, 2011 at 06:03 AM
Sam Mihailoff 3:54am on Sunday, October 9, 2011 Asking how the 5% reduction will take place and from what specific areas the 5% reduction shall be taken, seems reasonable questions. Nice to see you making comment Bill. I was beginning to think your candidacy was fiction. So, now that you have popped in for a visit, how about answering the question. You, Po, anybody... YOU-HOO........ I'M STILL WAITING...perhaps I should get out my refracting telescope and look to the heavens for any airborne swine
Po Murray October 12, 2011 at 12:37 PM
Mr. Bolinsky, I do not condone cyberbullying of any shape or form. I expect more from those who are seeking an elected position. We should be engaging in civil dialogue/discussions on the issues facing Newtown. I may disagree with the decisions that some elected officials make but I have never felt that those officials were not doing what they believed to be the right thing ----and I would never make a statement that they are "assasins". You stepped over the line and the BOE members deserve a genuine apology. As for my stance on the O/O---I have clearly stated my opinion numerous times on the Patch and on Facebook. I encourage you to go back and read my comments if you missed them. Same for the Dept. of Labor issue---I have commented on this many times and despite the clarification, you and others will continue to mislead the public. Please focus on why the voters should choose you instead of the other Legislative Council candidates for District 3.
onceuponanewtown October 12, 2011 at 02:11 PM
I guess love is blind and the truth hurts, but things are not nice in Newtown anymore and I am looking forward to that changing in November.
Tom Bittman October 12, 2011 at 02:45 PM
Mr. Bolinsky, the clear and vocal voting majority voted a few months ago to cap taxes and reduce services. That's the outcry that matters. The RTC called for structural changes in education spending, and said the public wanted lower taxes and reduced services. I see nothing changing in the economy that says voters will think differently in this next referendum. It's easy to cry for lower taxes, but lower taxes requires that something be cut, and education isn't just a large budget item, it's also Newtown's largest employer. It's disingenuous for you and the RTC to ask for lower education spending, and then to declare it "shameful" when that puts people out of work. It's disingenuous to cry for structural changes in education spending, and then claim that an 80-year old institution shouldn't be changed. You can't have it both ways. This is pandering to the voters. I’m hearing attacks – no answers. My personal preference would be to maintain the existing owner/operator system for a slight premium. I asked to maintain spending and quality of services when it mattered - at referendum time. A year ago, you publicly asked for lower taxes. What did you, the RTC or the DTC do at referendum time to maintain services and 80-year old institutions? What will you do at the next referendum?
Sawyer October 12, 2011 at 03:27 PM
Mr. Bittman, Past BOE's have been forced to operate within budget's that were reduced by LC due to referendum failures, they seemed quite capable of cutting their spending request in a way that did not create this level of outcry and concern. This may be perceived as an unfair opinion, but I do not believe this Superintendent and most of BOE members are capable of handling the normal challenges of the Newtown Budget/Approval process and challenges that running this school system requires.
yoda October 12, 2011 at 03:32 PM
Ok we get it the boe is wrong, we all know they wont be voted back,so lets think further ahead and try to fix whats broke? Anyone?
Tom Bittman October 12, 2011 at 04:45 PM
Sawyer, that's like saying households shouldn't be feeling the impact of this poor economy, because we've been able to make economic choices in the past that weren't painful. I don't believe the education budget has been under this pressure in decades. This is simplistic, but if you just look at budget growth, from 2003 through 2009, the compound annual growth rate for the education budget was 6.2%. From 2009 through 2012, the CAGR was 1.4%. This would cause stress on any organization or business. The question is how much fat there is within the education budget. Some think there is plenty, I think don't think there is (any more!). The cuts that are being made by the Superintendent and BOE are hurting - just like the economic choices we're making at home. I think it's a mistake to assume that any Superintendent and any BOE can continue to manage to a slim budget within the constraints placed on them by union contracts and the increasing cost of electricity oil, etc. - without more hurt.
Sam Mihailoff October 12, 2011 at 06:53 PM
Tom Bittman... and just what would you call the indiscriminate use of lawyers a d consultanys to the tune of thousands upon thousands of dollars??? Here's one...ask your wife how much was spent on legal advice even before any transportation bidding took place. Here's a second, ask your wife for the total spent on legal advice thus far on the transportation issue....THAT IS CALLED FAT...also know as waste, nismanagement, ignorance, abuse and a vote OUT THE DOOR
Sam Mihailoff October 12, 2011 at 09:11 PM
Can we have a vote of confidence on Superintendent Janet Robininson
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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