HOWELL – Bus route changes in certain areas of the community and the need for more detailed agendas during board committee and regular meetings were issues revisited during recent board meetings.
When the bus route changes were first announced, several parents voiced concerns during the board’s meetings in September and October.
Parents came out to learn if any modifications to the routes had been made based on information provided at a Sept. 4 meeting. Some parents expressed concern during both meetings that their child’s bus stop was changed to a location that was not as safe.
Board of Education President Mark Bonjavanni said no changes to the stops were made specifically due to the comments at the September Board Meeting.
“We certainly revisited the stops in question, and tried to clarify some of the issues that were addressed. One stop that brought out a number of people was at the corner of Buckalew and Mackenzie Court which is directly across the street from Buckalew and Desai Court. The stops were designed to stop at one side of Buckalew, pick up from Mackenzie, then travel down the road and to make a turnaround another block, and return to Desai side of Buckalew,” Bonjavanni said.
“There was never an intention to have children cross Buckalew. Photos were shown of children crossing the road, when that was never the plan. It would be safer and better for children to wait for the bus to pick them up on the side they are coming from,” Bonjavanni said.
Bonjavanni added that a question was raised about creating a task force to look at all of the stops.
“Ron Sanasac, the Assistant School Superintendent for Business Administration is charged with controlling the stops. He has looked at them over and over, and is in a position to act much faster than a committee could be formed or respond,” he said.
Board member Ira Thor voted against the bus route changes when they were first introduced. He brought up a related concern during the Board’s August and September meetings. “I think we as a board need to do a better job of when there is a topic the public has an interest in. We need to let people know what is going on.”
Thor said “most people were blindsided. We can’t let that happen. If we had let people know, we would have had more people come out. We had about 20 people but even at a meeting in August you would have had quite a bit more than that.
“There will be other topics in the future that will come up. Our agendas are too vague. We need to do a much better job of having an agenda includes what we are talking about. There are times when I feel blindsided as a board member and that can’t happen,” Thor added.
Last month Thor urged the district to make changes to the current plan. “We cannot be putting children and parents on Aldrich and some of these other busy streets in the morning,” Thor said.
“We have to be better than that. We can’t be putting people in danger on busy streets. Let’s make the changes where it is reasonable. I’m not saying we have a bus go down every cul de sac but it’s not black and white and we need to take a closer look at this.”
Bonjavanni said the new bus stop plan came from two years of discussion and planning. He said last month that that each case calling for a change by parents was being examined on an individual basis and safety was the primary interest of the board.
Board member Laurence Gurman said in September that “this is an ongoing dialogue. We can look at the board agendas before the meeting and the minutes after the meetings.” He recommended the public “come out to these committee meetings. We can all contribute together to get the information out.
“Our committee meetings are open to anyone in the public and they have a voice at that meeting,” Bonjavanni said. He also said that there had been some discussions on expanding the board’s agendas. He expressed that posts on social media concerning school district information have not always been accurate.
Board member Cristy Mangano said “most people communicate through social media whether we like it or not. People wouldn’t have known about this if it wasn’t for social media. Some people have told me they don’t come to meetings because they aren’t listened to.”
“I have been quite disturbed that public comment doesn’t come because they feel they are not being heard. We are to represent you, you voted us in and we need to make sure that you are heard,” Board member Dr. Scott A. Jeffrey said.
“We need your voices to be heard. We wish more voices were here,” Board Vice President Albert Miller remarked.