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BOE Meeting Rife With Emotions Regarding All Star

A large portion of Tuesday night's meeting revolved on questions relating to All Star morning drop-offs.

 

All Star Transportation was once again the subject of discussion at the Board of Education.Since school began in September, complaints from parents have focused on thelength of time it takes to get children to and from school. According to Janet Robinson, the scheduled bus runs have been improving greatly.  

At Tuesday's BOE meeting, Robinson said that in the five years that she has been the superintendent, she has not seen any bus company do any better than All Star has within the first three weeks of school.  Robinson said, “Week four has improved dramatically,” adding that bus performance at this point was as expected, and that glitches were being addressed.

BOE member John Vouros noted that he was pleased to see the owner-operators working for All Star, commending Joan Baumgart, in particular. “How comforting it is for me to be able to call her, and send emails to her and resolve issues within the day. She has been invaluable.”

The meeting became somewhat contentious when BOE Vice-President Laura Roche began asking the superintendent questions that Robinson could not answer. Roche said several times that the superintendent thought it was acceptable for several buses to continue to run late.

Robinson said she had not said that it was acceptable but that the system has “greatly improved and I am optimistic.”

Roche continued to assert that the times the students arrived in school was not acceptable, especially in light of the fact that many children are missing 10 to 15 minutes of home room.

According to Roche, 21 buses came in to Reed after 8:05, the start time of the school. She then asked if Robinson could explain the drop off process and other questions relating to start times for teachers, and the goal for students to arrive at school. 

Throughout Roche's questioning, she repeatedly stated that Robinson approved of the continued late arrival time. BOE member Richard Gaines said, “She never said it was OK. It is getting better. She said it is improving." 

For more than a half hour, the board reflected on the ongoing problems with the bus company, and Roche continued to challenge Robinson. “Why aren’t you upset they are missing instruction time?” she asked the superintendent.

“Because I see the improvement each day,” Robinson replied.“It is not an improvement when I see children missing 20 minutes of instruction. How is that an improvement?” Roche asked.

Robinson answered, “It is an improvement over what we had in the past. I didn’t say it was solved or acceptable.”

While Leidlein did put an end to the repeated discussion, she said the late bus situation was unacceptable. Leidlein asked Robinson to answer the questions in a report, and to submit it to her by the end of the week.  

Finance Director Ron Bienkowski commented about the situation, which some in the audience felt got to the heart of the matter. He said, “The folks in town had a service that was modified. Parents had relationships with drivers and when you make these kinds of changes, people are not going to be happy.”

He added, “What they are trying to do is take this puzzle (with the bus schedule) and realign it every time there is an issue, and that is no easy task.”

(Editor's note: Content has been modified to more accurately represent comments made by Chairman of the Board of Ed.)

Paul Alexander September 23, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Please don’t ever interpret my comments to mean that I believe what I say applies to “All”, “Everything”, “Everyone”. In this instance my view is that GENERALLY, a person who spends their entire working career as a public sector professional educator lacks the skill sets and experience to be a successful Chief Executive of a multi-million dollar enterprise. I believe Newtown is paying the price for that now in both the Supe and First Selectmen positions. If you think either is effective then your bar is set pretty low. I don’t know John Vouros well, but I’ve known him since I was in 7th grade. He was a VERY successful professional educator in the public sector. Now he is a VERY successful small business owner in the private sector. BIG difference between what John brings to the table versus Robinson and Llodra. In my limited experience with what John has done I can say that everything that I am aware of that he has done has been a class act. I think he’d make an excellent choice to be Superintendent, although I’d rather see him as First Selectman.
Paul Alexander September 23, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Sully, The leadership staff at USNA is comprised of active and retired professional naval officers. And by policy, the teaching staff is 50%+ military officers with advanced degrees and limited to 50% maximum professional PhD educators just so the egg heads can’t get powerful enough to dilute the warrior culture there. Oh...and the private sector FIGHTS to hire USNA grads. GM was saved by a USNA grad.
Les September 24, 2012 at 03:09 AM
I watched the video-Janet Robinson doesn't seem to know what end is up!
Sam Mihailoff September 24, 2012 at 04:21 AM
POSTED TO PATCH 11:59 PM SUNDAY THE VIDEO...not to get anyone’s sensitivities injured, let’s just call these answers and comments directly from the video “fabrications of the truth” # 1: I am not privy to those IEPs # 2 (Richard Gaines) The bus company planned on having a transportation coordinator and it was cut in the budget # 3 There have been great improvements in the buses ...Laura Roche’s data proves her wrong # 4 They don't have room for that many buses at St Rose and Reed so we can't use the extra 10 buses # 5 There is no starting time stated for when teachers arrive at each school #6 The 10 buses during Tier 2 are doing something #7 We don't have anyone that manages buses. #8 The transportation routes has 41 routes for Reed and St Rose. #9 All star found out the day before that they needed to transport. # 10 I don't know they have been taking a 47 passenger bus in there for years. # 11 Districts are required to offer the program for 30 months. http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2618&q=321158
Island Girl September 24, 2012 at 09:35 AM
So a straightforward and appropriate solution to an obvious and intractable "issue" was available all along......what motivation was there then to wait a month to implement? I believe, now, that it was the B.O.E. meeting that finally prompted positive change for our run. Too much of a coincidence that we received notice Wednesday afternoon. I don't think there was true recognition of a problem before then. Actions speak louder than words.
Laura Roche September 24, 2012 at 05:45 PM
I went back to the video of the APRIL 10 BOE meeting. All Star was at the meeting to address the board for the first time on the new bus company and all the changes that were going to take place. Please watch video. At time stamp 42:21 I speak to the buses arriving late at Reed, arriving after the school start times and how it was a problem. Rich Dufour, said he does not know why that is currently happening (2011-2012) but GUARANTEES it will not happen with All Star (2012-2013). He confirms that all the buses will be at Reed BEFORE SCHOOL STARTS. This will not be an issue with All Star the board is told. At time stamp 47:16 I ask how long will it take for the new bus company All Star to run smoothly. I ask 3 months? 1 month? I am trying to determine how long is fair to allow for the new bus company to settle in? The answer from All Star is a very confident 2 weeks. If it is not fixed in two weeks, it is not getting fixed. The entire meeting we heard why it was going to be better. Several reasons were provided; a centralized location, new routing software, bigger buses etc. We are starting the 5th week of school, 17 of the 33 buses at Reed arrived after the school start time Monday - 9/24. This is even after 3 buses were added Friday - 9/21. This is why I was so frustrated at the 9/18 BOE meeting. The board can not get a straight answer to why this is STILL happening from the administration or the bus company when we were GUARANTEED is was not going to happen.
Les September 24, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Laura, Thank you for all your hard work. The Superintendent does not appear to be any help in solving this serious problem or even realize what is going on. (I watched the video and she can't even answer simple questions). When we are 5 weeks into the start of school and 17 buses are late, it is a serious problem and All Star needs to correct this issue immediately. Would holding back payments on late arrivals be an option?
Island Girl September 24, 2012 at 10:59 PM
"If it is not fixed in 2 weeks, it is not getting fixed".........the same reasons given for greater efficiency are the same ones touted as issues now........If this was not fixed for 2011-2012, why would we expect it to be fixed this year? This is abominable. What about breach of contract? Are we really supposed to say "thank you" for lack of service? How is this sub par service and leadership still able to persist. Dr. Robinson's pay raise still stings.......... Thank you, Laura Roche!!
Milfseeker September 25, 2012 at 01:07 AM
The town of Newtown must first notify the contractor of there breach of contract and request a corrective action and date of compliance. If no action is taked a cure letter should be issued and another date of compliance. Finaly a breach of contract and atachment to the bond should be considered. Lets get the town attorney involved now to reduce the loss of classroom time to the children.
Island Girl September 25, 2012 at 01:12 AM
post haste
Carey Schierloh September 25, 2012 at 01:34 AM
We are fortunate there are BOE members who are working to resolve these issues. I agree with Laura, Allstar made many promises...they also said they could provide a better service than the O/O. Island girl you are correct - "the same reasons given for greater efficiency are the same ones touted as issues now."....although the administration's original response to the problem was the old standard "it's because of the budget cuts". I would like to make one thing crystal clear, students late to Reed last year was NOT due to buses arriving late. The first wave of buses were lined up and ready to release students. They could not release until the teachers came out. According to Janet Robinson, the time teachers start is determined by the building principal. Allstar is not arriving to Reed in time.
Carey Schierloh September 25, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Allstar contract, page 34, 8.17.3 states: "This Contract envisions a quality, responsive transportation program that minimizes the District's involvement in the day to day operation of the program." That's not happening.
Island Girl September 25, 2012 at 02:10 AM
"envisions" not "ensures", there is their out...........not how they "envisioned" oh well...
Sam Mihailoff September 25, 2012 at 03:03 AM
it would appear that legalese once again trumps reality...
Paul Alexander September 25, 2012 at 10:26 AM
Stop paying Allstar. That tends to get people's attention. Professional educators running what is effectively a multimillion dollar business = disaster. How many freakin data points do you need! The Superintendent should be a business leader and private sector chief executive with a proven track record of successfully running multimillion dollar enterprises. The Assistant Supe can be the Professional Educator. The Supe is the CEO. The Asst Supe is the COO. Get it together already.
Dawne Kornhaas September 25, 2012 at 10:45 AM
Paul, she can't run a school system and you expect she could run a private sector buiness?
Sam Mihailoff September 25, 2012 at 10:50 AM
but we already have Shoebox Ron as our business director
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com September 25, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Laura you can not speak for the Board of Education. . You may feel you personally are not getting the answers, thats fine. But you can not , nor can you suggest, that you speak for other Board Members.
Obi-wan September 25, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Bruce, what are you talking about? "I" is not speaking for the board. And she is right, the board can not get a straight answer. Kudos to her for pointing it out. If not for her things would probably go on unanswered. Your energy and focus on everything Laura does and says would better served on fixing the problem - don't you think
007 September 25, 2012 at 02:09 PM
BOE Agenda Janet throws a GPS at Laura but clocks Richard in the head - he's down about no one seems to notice. Laura then proceeds to ask Ron what happened to the missing 12 buses on Tier 2 run - we discover RON can't count, but he's in charge of 70 million dollar budget. John would like to share his private thoughts on REED but Keith continues to interrupt him. Bill Hart is missing and does anyone care? Keith is very angry that we have to start replacing 'normal' toilet stalls with extra wide stalls (some with raised seats!) to accommodate wheel chairs, as well as designing and installing ramps instead of stairs to get into public buildings, , and just catering to the unwell, old and feeble, is costing our Newtown millions of dollars - all at the expense of the 'normal' typical people.
007 September 25, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Debbie on Public Participation "We request that speakers be concise and respectful in their comments (unless you are speaking about special education go ahead be as rude as you want), do not make reference to a specific person, (unless of course you are speaking about a special education child - then you are welcome to discuss where the child attends school, how much transportation costs and what the child had for breakfast that morning, so we can easily identify them), and my favorite please limit your comments to more than three minutes ( Unless you are bashing Special Education then please feel free to continue till Christmas). Danbury Men's Hockey League demands the true identity of Yoda - Janet said she cannot discuss or release someone's identity unless they are special education until then we need to respect their privacy. Well informed Mom who loves to watch herself on video and dreams of the day she becomes ruler of BOE - Fires the Board of ED - John then tackles her ( I LOVE HIM!!) Who needs Cable when you have free footage of BOE meetings!!!
Dawne Kornhaas September 25, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Very well written!
Carey Schierloh September 25, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Dawne, Paul means he believes the Superintendent SHOULD be a CEO. Not that janet is a CEO.
Island Girl September 25, 2012 at 03:13 PM
The implication was busses being late, seems slanderous in light of your facts. To blame "budget cuts" is a farcical smoke screen, given that the ball for this outcome was set in motion long before our last contentious budget cycle.
Dawne Kornhaas September 25, 2012 at 03:49 PM
@Carey, :)
Sam Mihailoff September 25, 2012 at 04:33 PM
stay tuned for the next exciting episode of............"As the Stomach Churns"
Dawne Kornhaas September 25, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Here is the next episode already Sam and not even 24 hours later. I am FUMING! I was waiting at the bus stop with my neighbor and the bus hadn'ts shown up yet. HOM bus usually arrives at around 3:50pm to 3:55pm. It was 4:15 when we obviously noticed it was really late. So I called the school and it was the voicemail. So I called my friend down the road and she was still waiting also. 5 minutes later she comes driving up to tell us that she just spoke to the receptionist at the school and the bus hadn't shown up yet and all the kids were still at the school waiting. It was 4:20 at this point. My friend was going to pick her child up and called the school for me to inform them I was on my way to pick up my daughter. I arrived at HOM and all the poor kids were still there waiting very politely and patiently. Both the principal, lead teacher and receptionist were busy calling the Superintendent, All Star and parents of the kids to let them know they were still at the school. My daughter missed her running group class that had already begun at 4:15. This is inexcusable and there shall be accountability for this.
Les September 25, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Where was our Superintendent when this was happening? Janet: This needs to be fixed! Inexcusable! When a professional company, All Star, is hired to do a job and is not getting the job done, then payment should not be made till things are corrected.
Yay Write October 05, 2012 at 02:51 AM
Sam it's obvious you have no clue what you are talking about!
Sam Mihailoff October 05, 2012 at 03:29 AM
Did Reed leave...YES Did Reed move...NO Did Reed stay in the same profession...YES so, what is it that I am clueless about? He left for some reason, even if it was personal choice. That is what I stated.

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