September 12, 2008

District to Review Bus Policies ; Wrong-School Ride Spurs Clifton Shake-Up


CLIFTON Schools Superintendent Richard Tardalo pledged to shake up the district's transportation department after a 7-year-old was bused to the wrong school last week and walked three miles to the right one.

At the city's Board of Education meeting Wednesday night, Tardalo said the district is assessing transportation procedures and policies. Once the assessment is complete, all of the district's transportation employees will be retrained and required to review the district's policies and procedures every quarter.

"All transportation personnel will be held accountable for the safety and security of all the children whom they transport," Tardalo said. "The district will take appropriate disciplinary action should it be determined that any staff member is not performing their job responsibilities as outlined in the training as they should."

At Wednesday's meeting, the board went into a closed-door meeting to discuss ramifications for staff involved in the incident, but did discuss it publicly, citing personnel privacy law.

"It's not something that's open for discussion," Tardalo said.

The district's 43 buses transport nearly 2,500 students to and from school each day.

Last week, the 7-year-old, who attends School 17, was supposed to get on a district school bus numbered 23. The second-grader boarded a vehicle with the number 23 on it but the district's investigation discovered that the transportation department had two vehicles with the same number, Tardalo said.

The vehicle took the 7-year-old to Woodrow Wilson Middle School instead of School 17. The student left Woodrow Wilson Middle School and walked home. Seeing no one there, he walked to School 17 on Lexington Avenue. The school secretary let the boy in after he rang the school's front-door bell. The student told the principal, Anthony Orlando, what happened and staff called the boy's parents.

Board members said they were distressed that the student was unsupervised for so long and commended district officials for their quick response.

"The city was very fortunate that nothing occurred," said board commissioner Paul Graupe.

Michael Paitchell, a board commissioner, said the student was resourceful and smart and did the right thing.

"We are going to be making sure that this never happens again," Paitchell said.


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