BY MICHAEL J. RYAN, MAYOR OF SUNRISE
It takes a leap of faith to kiss our children goodbye in the morning and put them on a bus with children we do not know, being driven by someone we never met. Our children also take a leap of faith in us –that we believe the driver will drive safely and keep order on a bus full of potentially excitable students.
Our faith has long been secure, even if we wondered about inefficiencies and waste. However, our faith is being jeopardized by allegations made over the past week.
As a Mayor of a City with 11 public schools, I recognize there is tremendous complexity involved to ensure safe and quality education for all students, including transport to and from school. As a parent and former PTA president, I know concerns during the first week of school are common. Historically, our coping mechanism has been to believe the first week is always filled with new and unexpected experiences.
None of that helps me understand what has gone wrong with bus transportation this year.
Facing a fast rising tide of complaints by parents, the School Board Administration says the union or bus drivers are “sabotaging” the safe and efficient transportation of our children. While work slowdown tactics have been alleged, for instance, on factory assembly lines, the Administration’s allegation last week is extremely concerning. Our children are NOT factory products and schools are NOT an assembly line.
The Complaints Are Varied
Since the second day of school, I have forwarded the complaints of parents, including pick up times assigned two hours before school; dropping students at school long before, as Transportation well should know, there is supposed to be adult supervision; dropping at wrong bus stops; leaving children waiting at bus stops in the morning; leaving students, including special needs students, at school long after school discharge; bizarrely late drop off at bus stops after school; giving drivers new maps during the first week; and, the persistent inability of parents and schools to get through to Transportation.
I have been asking the Administration which of these complaints can be attributed to, and what facts support, the alleged intentional “sabotage” scheme. I have received no response from the Administration to those questions.
I do not deserve a response because I am a Mayor. I deserve a response because every parent deserves answers. We deserve answers because this “sabotage” allegation implicates safety and protection of our children at bus stops and schools.
If based upon unsubstantiated rumors or puzzle-piecing together thin-reed suspicions, tell us so. Of course, without real facts an allegation of widespread misconduct and “sabotage” would be a reckless and irresponsible assault upon our faith in bus drivers.
Take Action Now
On the other hand, if the allegation is based upon proven troublemakers, then do not, for the sake of our faith in our children’s bus driver tomorrow morning, cast all drivers in the same light. Take immediate action to quarantine the problem.
Parents know conserving resources can bring changes, transporting students is complex, and not everything is going to work perfect all the time.
What parents do not know is why no one will admit the obvious – no matter how well intentioned, it seems too much was done too quickly and without sufficient testing, technology, training, planning and redundancy. Instead, we are asked to focus on a terrifying conspiracy of bus drivers or the union to intentionally “sabotage” safe transportation of our children.
We deserve answers based upon sustainable facts. In time, we deserve acceptance of responsibility.
But, for now, we, as parents, need our faith restored so in that final moment before we hand over our sons and daughters to a bus driver, we are confident we are making the right decision.
(Michael J. Ryan was elected mayor of Sunrise in August 2010. President of the PTA and involved in many other school activities, Ryan has two children in public school.)