Parents working to create dialogue about the Baldy bus run with board of trustees

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
February 25th, 2010

Concerned parents were given the floor for the evening in its entirety on Tuesday night, Feb. 16 in Midway as concerns over the Mt. Baldy bus route closure were aired. The group of over 20 parents gathered to approach the school district trustees with new information and requests for clarification on the data collected to date. Despite the large gathering, and comments provided, the Board of Trustees for School District #51 remained firm in their decision.

After Sharen Gibbs opened the floor with a pointed presentation, a five page report that was prepared by local citizen Arthur Harfman turned the safety questions around and aimed them at the trustees as he illustrated what new dangers are possible with the decision to axe the route.

The absence of the bus driver who manned the route was an issue for the parents in attendance, as was the qualifications of the consultant hired by the district to determine the validity of the Boards’ actions and parents’ concerns.

Parent Gerald Best disregarded the qualifications of the consultant bluntly stating that the “consultant was biased,” and referred to the examiner’s paid position within another School District. He added that the consultant is not recognized by the Ministry of Transport.

While not present, the consultant, Frank Marasco, was also brought into question regarding the photos he took in an effort to visually describe portions of the road. Harfman stated in his counter report that “not one of these photos is of a portion of the actual route.”

In conclusion, Harfman’s report said that “based on my experience and intimate knowledge of this route I find that the bus route and stop do not pose any greater risk than any other rural bus route on a side street. I recommend that the board rescind their decision and reinstate this route to its previous service.”

A second review of the report and the roads by Marasco along with two school board staff, Michael Strukoff, superintendent of schools, and Jeanette Hanlon, secretary – treasurer, as well as a parent from the Mt. Baldy area, was provided to the board on Feb. 10. In his updated report, Marasco apologized for the confusion over the photographs he had provided, and agreed that they were not the appropriate ones for the report. Regardless of the pictures, he maintained that his conclusions were sound and that the current bus route is the safest option for the students involved.

Strukoff reiterated the board’s position that the decision to change the route was based on safety concerns. “The Board of Education looked at several alternatives: returning the bus run, but only during fall and spring months; and changing the run so only Mt Baldy and Alden Road students are on the bus. In the end the board stayed with its original decision and kept the suspension in place,” said Strukoff. “The board in its view has reduced the risk of an accident on this bus run.”

Although the board is willing to look at an alternative location for the bus stop for the area that would be located closer to the Mt. Baldy road turn off, they are clear that the decision requires the approval of the Ministry of Transportation and so they could not guarantee any change.

Parents continue to dialogue with the board of trustees in hopes that they will influence change. At a school board policy meeting in Midway on Tuesday, Feb. 23, parents spoke to the issue again. While there was a sense that the board was interested in transparency and open communication, parents remain frustrated.

“Last night in Midway it was again reiterated by a board member that only two of the five pictures (in the consultant’s report) were wrong. In reality, all five pictures were incorrect. What this says to me is that the board is willing to believe a consultant who does not know the area, who got confused with all the pictures he took (and thus got them mixed up,) and thus reject the unanimous voice of local residents,” said parent Mark Danyluk in a follow up letter to the board.

“Do you hear what you are communicating in saying this? You are saying “we will listen but we will do nothing to respect the parents’ knowledge or discover the truth.” I then must question whether you are really listening, wanting to know the truth, and wanting to communicate the truth. From notes on last night’s meeting, I gather that the over-all theme was transparency, ie. truth and honesty. This was communicated from both sides and I see this as foundational and encouraging. This is a great start but it must not stop there – you now have the responsibility to take what you’ve heard, and will continue to hear, open your minds to new ideas and ways of doing things, and work issues out authentically for the good of all our students.”

*Editor’s Note: the article was written with files from Nik Green

Categories: General