NEW ROCHELLE, NY — A transportation study commissioned in 2015 by the New Rochelle Board of Education recently obtained by Talk of the Sound raises serious questions about violations of New York State law including seven-figure financial fraud, failure to follow state procurement laws, major gaps in board of education policy, deficient practices within the transportation department and a complete failure to implement state-required safety procedures such as practicing bus emergency drills.
While some of the findings and recommendations in the report may have been addressed by the District, in cases where Talk of the Sound can easily check — such as the updating of board policies — there has been no apparent effort to address issues raised by the report.
The most distressing findings in the report are that the school district was not in compliance with basic safety requirements:
1. The District never conducted required school bus emergency drills:
“Compliance is needed with the legal and regulatory requirement of school bus emergency drills. The present failure of not conducting these drills is highly unusual and is hazardous to the students being transported.”
2. The Superintendent did not approve school bus drivers:
“The School District needs to comply with the requirements of §3624 of the Education Law for the Superintendent’s approval of drivers in service to the School District. This approval requirement should be extended to attendants/monitors through the Bid/RFP requirements.”
3. The District did not maintain records on driver qualifications:
“The review also indicated that information on driver qualifications did not exist nor was there any record of any approval of the driver by the School Superintendent or his/her designee to provide services to the School District. The latter is required by §3624 of the Education Law. “
4. The District did not have a basic understanding of which state agencies regulate school buses:
“Safety Requirements under the title of Vehicles and Equipment list the regulatory agencies that regulate school buses. One of the listed agencies is the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. This department does not regulate school buses in New York State.
5. RFPs required the archaic use of snow tires and chains:
“…snow tires and chains stopped being used prior to the time period the RFP was published. If the school buses need chains to travel on the streets of New Rochelle due to heavy snow and ice, perhaps school should be closed or the opening of school should be delayed until the streets are cleared fully and properly.
6. There is no policy on Child Safety Zones:
“…there is no statement providing for the option to create Child Safety Zones (CSZ) for students who live less than a mile-and-a-half from their school of attendance and who must walk through an area that may be considered hazardous.”
According to the Study, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration Jeff White and Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne met with Louis J. Boffardi of Transportation Advisory Services in June 2015 to discuss undertaking what would be become a two-month study of Transportation Department personnel and technology, Board Policies on Transportation, Transportation Practices and RFPs/Contracts for Transportation Services.
The Student Transportation Efficiency Study was delivered by Boffardi to the District in October 2015 and presented to the New Rochelle Board of Education in executive session soon after. A review of board agendas from October 1, 2015, to December 31, 2015, do not show any indication that the Board ever disclosed receiving such a presentation and the report was never made public.
A review of the report does not indicate what in the report would make it exempt from New York State Open Meeting Law which would require the presentation be made in open session and copies of the report made available to the public on the District web site and in hard copy at the meeting when the report was presented to the board. Talk of the Sound filed a Freedom of Information request to obtain a copy of the 2015 Student Transportation Efficiency Study but has yet to receive a response. A copy of the report was delivered to Talk of the Sound over the weekend by an anonymous source.
Boffardi was briefly hired to run the Transportation Department as an outside consultant. He produced a follow-up report entitled “Summary Report For RFP Development And Management Process” in January 2016 which was made public as part of the Consent Agenda for the March 1, 2016 school board meeting.
This article is the first in a series. Future articles will report on RFPs and Contract, Bus Monitors and Recommended Fixes to Board Policy (none of which were acted upon).
FOUR-PART SERIES ON SECRET TRANSPORTATION STUDY + SUMMARY + RELATED ARTICLE