FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – There was more finger pointing and angry accusations over Broward’s school bus service disruptions at Wednesday’s meeting of the school board.
Even though the bus crisis wasn’t on the agenda, it dominated the meeting.
The issue is who to blame for the situation in which kids are being picked up late or excessively early and even left stranded at times. Going into the third week of school, parents have complained to the board that there are still problems despite the actions by the school district’s transportation department.
“Give us a date when this will be fixed, all the parents, you are not being held accountable,” parent Nick Sakhnovsky told the board. He says his son’s bus schedule is still erratic.
Parent Tina Toepfer also begged for answers, saying it was difficult to get information over the phone.
‘It took me two weeks to reach someone, two weeks!” complained Toepfer.
Fifty angry bus drivers stormed the meeting, still upset over transportation chief Chester Tindall’s accusation they were sabotaging his efforts to reform the system.
“With the allegations he brought forth, he should not be reprimanded, he should be fired,” declared Linda Lewis a Union Representative.
Wednesday afternoon Tindall addressed the board and informed then he was taking a six to eight week medical leave. He also apologized to the parents who have been inconvenienced by the problems of the last few weeks.
“I will be out six to 8 weeks and afterwards I will work on driving change,” said Tindall.
On Thursday union reps will meet with his second in command, Maurice Woods to talk about resolving some of the bus issues.
The district says over forty new bus drivers have been hired and more will be hired at an upcoming job fair.
Earlier in the day, Dan Reynolds, chief of the Federation of Public Employees which represents the drivers, told the board that a big part of the problem was that their routes change on a daily basis as the transportation department scrambled to find a workable solution.
“This is a route for one driver,” said Reynolds as he held up a series of papers. “Day 1 changed. Day 2 changed. Day 3 changed. Day 4 changed. There have been changes every day since the driver started”
Reynolds also addressed accusations made in recent weeks by Tindall and Superintendent Robert Runcie who said some school bus drivers have intentionally sabotaged service since the start of the school year.
“I have to say, the Director of Transportation has not only insulted these people, but he has been unfocused on job one – which is transporting the kids. He’s been a loose cannon and spouting wild ideas in the press that have brought discredit on his boss Robert Runcie and on you the board members.”
Many of the board members have called for answers. They want Runcie to hold someone responsible, some want Tindall to be reprimanded. Tindall has said would not resign. Superintendent Robert Runcie says he has a new appreciation for bus drivers and when the crisis is over, change will be for the better.
“We’ll have a better department, and then we can concentrate on student achievement.”