Parents Challenge Mam’k Schools ‘Illegal’ Bus Policy
11 Mar, 2014
By Polly Kreisman
from Fairness For All Kids.
Members of the School Board are welcome to leave comments below.
Fairness for All Kids has released a series of questions that must be answered by the Mamaroneck Union Free School District Board of Education regarding their unfair, unsafe, and illegal transportation policy. The questions come after last week’s public school board meeting during which the members of the Board refused to answer even basic questions about their policy despite a promise from Board President Nancy Pierson that all questions would be answered.
The proposed policy would require students at religious and independent schools to take public transit to school, rather than a yellow bus, which would leave them unsupervised and subject to commutes of three hours or more each day. Fairness for All Kids maintains that any attempt to push through a policy without answering the legitimate concerns of the community would be a dereliction of duty and a failure of accountability on the part of the Board of Education. It is the sincere hope of the parents, clergy leaders, and other community members who make up Fairness for All Kids that the school board will consider these issues, and realize that this policy proposal is unfair, unsafe, and illegal.
Svetlana Wasserman, a parent and one of the founders of the coalition, said, “The Mamaroneck school board and its President, Nancy Pierson, failed a key test of leadership last night by refusing to answer basic questions about the illegal bus policy they are forcing on this community. As our elected officials, they have an obligation to respond to the concerns of their constituents, who are now demanding the Board of Education stop this wrongheaded policy. We are outraged at the unfair, unsafe, and illegal policy they have put forward, and we will not be silenced.”
The questions from the community that must be answered are below.
1. Given how small the estimated savings are ($144,000), and how many people will be significantly penalized by your transportation policy, why are you insisting on imposing it? Why is it so important to you and why do you refuse to listen to the pleas of your constituents?
2. You have stated that you would not put your own children or grandchildren on public transportation. Why are you then forcing other families to do it?
3. Why are you not hearing or responding to parents’ concern for safety? Last week we received yet another district-wide notice about stranger danger, a letter from Dr. Shaps warning of registered sex offenders in Mamaroneck. He rightly advised, “Take time to speak to your children about avoiding contact with strangers and circumstances that may increase their vulnerability.” How does the Board justify sending these same children on long, unsupervised commutes on public transportation?
4. Where would liability lie if a child is injured in the process of going to or coming from school and has the district anticipated the legal cost in connection with just one “accident”?
5. How in your opinion will children’s success at school be impacted by the addition of 3 hours or more of travel, up to six miles of walking, and the stress of this dangerous and arduous journey?
6. NY State Education law requires that transportation services be provided to ALL students who meet the mileage requirements. Why have you developed a discriminatory policy that forces some students attending religious and independent schools off the school buses, while allowing other students to continue to get to school in the safety of a school bus?
7. When do you plan to let Hommocks families know that your new policy, as written, would eliminate busing for all Hommocks students?
8. What provisions have you made to comply with the New York State education law requirement that monitors be provided at any transfer points for children getting to and from school?
9. Did the sub-committee or their consultant, who was paid $7500 in taxpayer money, test out the public transportation routes that they are forcing children to take?
10.What provisions have you made for the days when public transportation cannot get children to school on time due to weather related interruptions or altered routes, or if a delay causes a child to miss his or her transfer?
11.Have Metro-North, Bee Line and the Police at municipalities along the proposed transportation routes been notified of the intent to put children as young as 10 on public transportation? If so, please release their responses to the community.
12.Are Bee Line drivers and other public transportation employees trained to handle the added responsibility of children on their bus in the same fashion that school bus drivers are trained? (a child getting sick, a child falling asleep, altercations between children on the bus, bullying on the bus etc.)
13.Why have you not taken into account the marginal costs of children returning to the district because their families can no longer get them to their independent schools? Why have you not factored in the cost of services for children with special needs, iPads, and ESL services?
14.A $2.8M budget gap has been identified for the fiscal year 2014 Budget. Aside from the estimated $143,775.40 in transportation cuts, what other cuts will be made? Are any other proposed cuts to legally mandated services? Are there any other proposed cuts that would jeopardize the health and safety of students? If the need for budget savings is so dire, how can you justify proposed spending increases on non-mandated programs?