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.)