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District 68 Parent: "I Don't Have Trust"

About a dozen parents shared their concerns, disbelief and outrage Monday night with Westway's poor bus service.

Tom Hanyzewski's daughter was lost on a Westway bus for 40 minutes as her driver tried to find her stop.

Her parents didn't know where she was. All of the other student along her route had been dropped off. Her father started driving the bus route to try to find her. When his daughter finally got home, she was emotionally distraught, Hanyzewski said.

Incidents like the dozens reported since the first day of school last Wednesday have caused parents like Melody Nicholas to lose trust in the district.

"I'm disheartened," Nicholas told the District 68 board Monday night. "I had trust. I don't have trust. I worry about the safety of my son."

Nicholas said her son has yet to be picked up for school. 

"What would have happened if someone had come by and taken them?" she said. "I know they can be safe. I know we can do better. How are we going to get there?"

The district has said all of the students relying on buses to get to school have been affected, except for one John L. Sipley Elementary School route in which a Sipley mom is the driver. 

Missing students has affected every classroom in the district. 

District 68 Board President Jeff Cortez wondered how many students gave up on going to school as buses just didn't arrive to pick them up. 

"Can you imagine how nervous a student is just to start school and now they have to worry if they can even get there?" asked Patti Cash, District 68 board member. 

It was an emotional evening for parents who shared their worries and concerns for their children. About a dozen parents spoke during the public comment portion of Monday's District 68 school board meeting.

Parents denounced Westway for taking their children to the wrong stops or getting lost on the way to school.

They also shared stories of missing work to drive their children to school. Some even started a bus service of their own, taking neighborhood kids to and from school when they were left behind.

One mom said a bus driver asked students how to get to Jefferson Jr. High School. The bus driver then started heading for I-355 to get there.

"I was sick to my stomach that (my daughter) was on a bus like that," she said. "It's beyond me how someone can become a bus driver and not know how to get there. I put trust in a bus the district hired."

Parents shared frustration in a lack of communication from both the district and the bus company. Tracey Witt said she has children in both District 68 and District 99.

"District 99 has sent no less than two automated messages and three e-mails," Witt said.

"They gave us numbers for school principals and the bus company to voice our frustration. I got one automated message from this district, and it was not very informative...You're dropping the ball in communicating with us."

Parents also asked why school phones were on night mode even as children were stuck at school after hours waiting for buses to show up. They also wanted school officials to be outside greeting children when they finally arrived to school. 

"At Goodrich, there's only two people out there waiting for kids to come in -- an administrative assistant and a janitor," said Andrew Rybowiak. "We need some level of authority. Make sure parents see them know they're on it."

Others shared receiving nonchalant responses from staff or never receiving phone calls back from the district or bus company. Board members and administration said any such responses were unacceptable.

All wanted a clear plan as to how problems would be fixed. They left disappointed. 

Some questioned whether savings from the consolidated bus bid was worth it. District 68 stands to save $300,000 a year by consolidating routes with Districts 58 and 99.

"We got what we paid for," Rybowiak said "Sometimes we got to look at that a little more closely. Sometimes a good deal is a little too good to be true."

Kelly Tracey-Wood August 30, 2011 at 01:42 PM
I agree with Mr. Rybowiak. You get what you pay for. Poor service would not be tolerated in the corporate capacity. Unintended consequences must be considered much more carefully when making a decision as large as transporting our children to school. I hope the District 68 will consider terminating Westway's contract at the end of the year. Any business that plans this poorly deserves to be terminated.

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