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Drivers seek solutions to problems at Kiley

Date: 4/12/2011

April 11,2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — The students at Kiley Middle School will be wearing identification badges with their assigned bus number on them as well as sit in assigned seats, as part of an effort to restore order on those buses.

Bus drivers met with School Committee member Antonette Pepe, Assistant School Superintendent Daniel Warwick and Kiley Principal Kenneth Luce on April 5 to go over the behavioral problems drivers face and to seek solutions to them.

The drivers listed a number of steps the School Department should take to restore safety on the busses.

Pepe told Reminder Publications the following day what she heard from the drivers was "quite unnerving."

"I was very upset because I feel in my estimation these reports went to the proper authorities," Pepe said.

She added that until the meeting at Kiley the complaints from drivers had been "falling on deaf ears."

The behavioral problems are so severe that some drivers are refusing to accept assignments from Kiley, Pepe said.

While there are similar problems at other schools, "Kiley has been a sore spot going on three years," Pepe added.

With the new identification system devised by Warwick and Zone Chief Lydia Martinez, Pepe said the drivers would now be able to more easily identify which students are causing problems. Students must have a bus pass in order to ride the bus as well.

"Teachers have help in their buildings," Pepe noted. "These bus drivers have 54 students all by themselves."

The school bus monitors, who had been riding in the buses, had been cut as part of budget cuts, she explained and the video cameras on the buses are blocked by the students or produce blurry images.

In written testimony submitted at the meeting by June Dakin, a driver for more than 30 years in Springfield, a number of behavioral incidences were cited from just the past several weeks. Among these were:

• "March 15: Kiley Bus Five — Diane Dano, driver — Mr. Santiago allowed a student to ride without a pass because there was no late bus. She was to sit in the front seat, but she decided to roam. When I told her that she wasn't supposed to be out of her seat, she repeated many times, 'Shut the [expletive deleted] up.' When getting off the bus, she asked me, 'What the [expletive deleted] are you looking at?'"

• "March 16: Kiley Bus 10, Marcy Mascaro, driver — A student assaulted me because he wanted to get on the bus without showing his ID he first tried to push me aside, then he pushed me as he tried to crawl under me and he pushed me again when he attempted to climb over the seat."

• "March 18: Deana Williams, driver — Please review the camera film. One student in the back admitted pulling the fire alarm. She then proceeded to simulate sexual acts in the very last seat of the bus."

• "March 22: Kiley Bus Nine, Pat Jackson, driver — This bus is totally out of control. Students walk around while the bus is in motion, throw stuff all over the bus, yell at the top if their lungs and play with the emergency door. They reached out the window and tried to grab another bus next to me. Students jumped out of the back door at Hancock and King streets. Two boys behind me had some tape and said they should tie the driver to the seat."

• "March 24: Kiley Bus 10, Marcy Mascaro, driver — Students sitting in seat nine and 10 on the right side drew pictures of private parts on the windows. This bus is not fit for charters. Most seats are covered with obscene graffiti. Just before 4 p.m. one of them popped open the emergency window. A boy, directly behind the driver's seat constantly stood to open a window after being told not to. He also put his feet under my seat and hooked one foot around my seat belt. He kept pressing it so that it tightened around me. At one point, I glanced to my left and saw that he had his hand on my purse. I would like this student to be suspended, it is not safe to drive with these distractions. Foam was torn out of the seats on the right side. Please view tapes to identify students responsible. They should be made to pay for this damage."

Dakin also listed the additional steps the drivers would like to see, include hiring and training bus monitors; bonuses offered to drivers willing to take a Kiley route; developing bus routes that involve the same bus number in both the morning and afternoon, so drivers can get to better know his or her students; do not restrict Quebec Team police officers from doing their jobs in the busses; and have greater oversight and response to the written reports filed by the drivers.

"Why do students continue to be so unruly?" Dakin wrote. "The answer is simple: 'Because they can.' Kiley students are not held accountable for their actions. They are not aware that a free bus ride is a privilege — not a right. Once the premise that actions do have consequences is enforced, discipline can be restored. Until then, drivers, students, pedestrians and other vehicles will remain at risk. It's only a matter of time before there is a horrific accident; none of us want to be that driver."

Pepe said she is seeking additional remedies to these issues. "We need to do something system-wide so we can squash this," she said.

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