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Peekskill Schools Reject Bus Bids, Seek New Proposals

Officials cite ‘concerns,’ ‘legal reasons’; drivers, monitors voice worry about jobs.

All bids for bus transportation for the new school year have been rejected by the Peekskill Board of Education. The district will seek new bids and hopes to award a contract as soon as the board’s next meeting, July 3.

The board had been poised to award a three-year contract Tuesday night, June 19, to the current contractor, Mile Square Transportation, according to its agenda (item N4), but instead voted to negotiate an extension of the existing contract through the summer.

The rejection prompted questions by bus drivers, monitors and Mile Square officials about jobs and the bidding process during a hearing of citizens near the end of the meeting.

“The board had concerns and decided we needed to rebid,” board President Joseph Urbanowicz told speakers who questioned why a contract was not awarded beyond this summer. “That’s all I can say.”

“We have legal reasons that we can’t discuss in public,” Superintendent of Schools James Willis said.

The rejection followed an executive session – closed to the public – midway through the board meeting.

Robin Morales, a Mile Square driver for 10 years, said the livelihoods of about 100 people were on the line and noted that students find the consistent presence of familiar drivers and monitors to be comforting.

Mile Square shop steward Ray Griffin framed his concerns in four words: “Do we have jobs?”

“Our drivers need to know” about their job status come September, said Harry Rodriguez, owner of Mile Square, in urging a swift resolution of the contract issue.

Attorney Paul W. Meyer Jr., assistant secretary for Mile Square, questioned whether the contract process was being conducted properly.

Earlier in the meeting, during the initial hearing of citizens, parent Katie Schmidt Fedor urged the board to ensure consistency and high standards for bus drivers and monitors. “Parents want kids to feel safe and secure on the bus,” she said.

Leslie Lawler June 22, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Drivers need to know the status of their jobs? Oh, please. Parents and taxpayers need to know the status of the safety of their children. Bravo to the Board for finally showing some moxie and not continuing to rubber-stamp every politically-connected contract that falls on their table.
Karen echeverria June 22, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Miles square employs members and tax payers of the district ? The school board should realize bringing in the company that this president wants ,will unemploy people here. These new drivers will come up from down county every day. The will have no personal relationship with the children. In the end it's all about money, however the board in Peekskill has tainted the bid process and should be brought to task for this. It is illegal the way these bids were handled. The question is why the president is so hell bent on awarding this to this other co. Could it be a self serving interest?
Leslie Lawler June 22, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Any bus driver that has a "personal relationship" with the children has no business being around children in my opinion. This is a contract with the district, not a guarantee for employment. It's about time the Board scrutinized contracts and ensured the taxpayers were getting what they paid for. I question the safety records of many of this company's drivers. I leave for work each morning between 7:15 and 7:30 and make my way from the northeastern part of the city to the Welcher Avenue on-ramp for Route 9. If anyone would like to take a ride with me to witness the near misses, speeding, and flying through stop signs that this particular company's vehicles attempt each morning, please let me know.
leesther brown June 23, 2012 at 01:14 AM
How about PCSD buy their own buses and create some jobs,or hire some from Miles Square!!!
Katie Schmidt Feder June 23, 2012 at 09:48 PM
Leslie, your very concerns are the reason I spoke at the Board meeting. I had sent an email to the board earlier that day to file a report on two completely unprofessional indidents I had witnessed involving a bus monitor and driver. I have also heard countless stories this year about monitors who are improperly trained to handle kids on the bus, bullying indicents so severe the police were called, a driver who had an accident while texting, unreported incidents, etc. My statement at the meeting was this: I know there are many good drivers and good monitors. All I ask is that WHATEVER bus company we hire, they have HIGH standards, thorough training and consistancy in the monitors and drivers. I actually spoke to the owner of Mile Square after the meeting and voiced my dissapointment in some of their hiring choices. He claims/blames the union for such - which I really do not understand. He says he cannot determine who will be good with kids and who will not. I suggested he spend a little money to create a personality profile and follow through with training. On the district side however, they MUST be firm and remove a child that has received several behavior citations. If we are to expect good divers and good monitors to work for us via any transporation company - we MUST have their backs and remove children who have major behavior problems -for the safetely of the drivers, monitors and the other children. From what I understand this has not always been the case.
Leslie Lawler June 23, 2012 at 10:49 PM
I applaud your diligence, Katie!! My son has since graduated, but I can tell you from personal experience that the countless stories go back to Miles Square's first day with this district. I have had concerns about their screening process, hiring protocol, employee training and policy for reporting complaints for years while my son was in grade school.....I see nothing's changed -- I hear from neighbors it's worsened -- and that's both unfortunate and unacceptable. It is incumbent upon the district administration to ensure the safety and welfare of our students and that includes not only the integrity of district employees, but the integrity of contracted workers that have contact with our children. The answer given to you by the Miles Square owner -- "it's the union's fault" -- is a shameful cop-out. A union contract has nothing to do with their hiring protocol, ongoing training to ensure safety, and their progresssive disciplinary process for offenders. Let's start simple: Is Miles Square conducting background checks, including criminal and sex offender checks? Is their ongoing training (similar to what the district requires of its employees) to help the drivers and monitors communicate and deal with the children appropriately? What is the procedure following complaints of drivers and monitors? I'm glad you spoke out Katie! I wish more folks would do so for the sake of our kids.
Doreen Van Loan July 11, 2012 at 04:34 PM
katie good for you, the schools need to remove students that are a problem for the safty of all.
Adele Walker/Nana's Place Day Care September 08, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Why the buses are not picking up and droping off the children that go to Day Care?? This is not fair to the parents that has to work. a lot of children do not leave from their homes, so they can't ge to school? You changed things not the children; they still need tranportation. how could leave them standing on the corner without taken them to school or takn them to their day care. Adele Walker Nana's Place

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