Borough school bus issues subside

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NAUGATUCK — Student Transportation of America, the school bus company employed by the Board of Education, has corrected problems that surfaced last spring, according to the chairman of the board’s transportation committee.

“I think you’re always going to have issues and complaints and late buses,” James Jordan said. “There are constant complaints about everything under the sun, but we’re not seeing consistent complaints about one thing or another. … I think things are better.”

The school board in April asked for a legal review of whether the company had breached its contract with the board following complaints that buses were running more than an hour late and concerned parents could not reach anyone at STA’s borough headquarters on South Main Street.

That review was never completed because many of the complaints were not documented, Jordan said. In most cases, parents complained to school principals, who often handled the problems themselves without being required to report to the board’s central office, Jordan said.

“Most of the information we would get is, people would call us, and you have to verify that stuff,” Jordan said.

The board is no longer hearing complaints that managers are absent, and is hearing fewer late bus complaints, Jordan said.

A new operations manager, Ron Tymula, replaced former manager Tasha Priar near the end of the summer, Jordan said. Tymula did not return a message seeking comment.

As a result of last spring’s issues, the board has streamlined the complaint process, Jordan said. Parents are encouraged to contact the school board’s central business office, run by Business Manager Wayne McAllister, with concerns about the buses.

If parents do not like the business office’s decision, they can come before the transportation committee for a hearing.

The business office now keeps a district-wide bus complaint log, which is reported on monthly, Jordan said. The business office also fills out a report that has all the contract’s major points, including evacuation drills and maintenance, to make sure the bus company is in compliance, Jordan said.

“I think that’s worked out rather well,” Jordan said. “You don’t want seven or eight different people handling it, you want one centralized office.”

This year, the board used a new mapping system called Versatrans to plot bus routes, which generated several complaints at the beginning of the school year from family members who were not happy with new bus stops. Many of those complaints have been resolved, Jordan said.

The bus company, which runs more than 40 vehicles on school days in the borough, has a $2 million-per-year contract with the school board that expires in 2013.