Talk of the Sound Releases Secret Transportation Study Improperly Withheld by New Rochelle BOE for Years

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Talk of the Sound has published a four-part series on deficiencies with New Rochelle Board of Education transportation policies and practices identified to the board in a secret 2015 report withheld from the public in violation of New York State law.

This article summarizes those articles, culls out the various recommendations in the secret report and, for the first, makes public the entire no-longer-secret report.

Student Transportation Efficiency Study (October 2015) – recently obtained by Talk of the Sound through an anonymous source, the Study raised serious questions about violations of New York State law (seven-figure financial fraud, failure to follow state procurement laws, major gaps in board of education policy, deficient practices within the transportation department, failure to implement state required safety procedures, etc.) and gross incompetence among business office administrators and staff.

Summary Report For RFP Development and Management Process (January 2016) – available through the District web site, the report addressed issues with the RFPs and Contracts raised in the Student Transportation Efficiency Study (October 2015).

None of the policy recommendations in the Student Transportation Efficiency Study were implemented, some but not all of the financial fraud was discontinued, prohibited transport of students for after-school transportation religious instruct and to non-853 schools continues. It is not clear whether the remainder of the recommendations were acted upon. To that extent, this article is intended to present the recommendations from the Study in the context of an inquiry, namely, “did you, the board, do anything in response to these recommendations, if so, what, and, finally, show specifically and in writing, what it is you claim to have done by way of implementation of the various recommendations?”

The Student Transportation Efficiency Study (October 2015) Recommendations:

  • Update Bids/RFPs specifications to incorporate current language usage and current requirements.
  • Bid out coach busing (over $20,000)
  • Issue one document with a common set of requirements and a request for price submissions for the three different types of service.
  • Do not reissue the structure and the requirements of the existing Bid/RFP specifications or build upon what presently exists; start fresh with more current requirements that reflect better the industry standards and the School District’s needs for the present and the future.
  • Ask for a prime time shuttle rate and a non-prime time shuttle rate.
  • The School District requires a physical examination standard higher than that which is required by Article 19-a of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law and the federal Department of Transportation; review the requirement for these tests (a chest x-ray, a Monteux test, and a cardiogram).
  • Do not to file for State aid for the 2O14-2015 bus monitor expenses.
  • Add a vehicle age/mileage requirement in RFP specifications for home-to-school and summer School transportation services.
  • Add a minimum DOT Profile requirement for home-to-school and summer School transportation services.
  • Require a minimum of a 90% passing percentage each State fiscal year from its transportation services provider(s).
  • While TAS and the State Education Department feel the appropriateness of (providing afternoon transportation services for students in Grades K-5 for religious instruction) is questionable, the practice has an impact upon the afternoon transportation program and the School District should formalize the guidelines that exist through Policy and Regulation.
  • Adopt a procedure that uses objective criteria  for the determination of what is a safe or an unsafe bus stop.
  • Consider a two-tier structure for the transportation of its elementary school students; change the elementary school start/end times in order to reduce transportation costs.
  • At least every other year the School District should take a ridership count for five consecutive days three times a year.
  • Undertake a comparative study of costs relative to other school districts.
  • The requirement to notify the School District in the event of an accident should be expanded to include the right of the School District to receive a copy of all accident reports, including a copy of the Contractor’s internal documents dealing with the accident, and to participate actively in the accident investigation.
  • Conduct required school bus emergency drills.
  • Comply with the requirements of §3624 of the Education Law (Superintendent approval of school bus drivers, maintain records on driver qualifications).
  • Establish policy on Child Safety Zones.
  • Obtain voter approval of Board Policy “3610 – Transportation”.
  • Revise 3610 to explictly state bus stop policies, the establishment of child safety zones, and transportation requirements for pre-school and kindergarten students, bus stop walking distance, student behavior at bus stops, pick-up/drop-off policy.
  • Revise “3630 – Educational Field Trips” to include the recommended State Education Department guidelines for the use of such charter buses.
  • Obtain compliance and qualification status of the motor carrier and bus driver for each field trip from Division of Program Regulation of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • Obtain bus company equipment and maintenance record from New York State Department of Transportation.
  • Develop guidelines and protocols for adult chaperone/school officials assigned to a field trip.
  • Obtain voter approval of BEPT Cooperative Transportation agreement
  • Establish qualifications for attendants/monitors.
  • Increase liability insurance for school bus transportation companies from $5mm to $10mm.
  • Create a policy statement with requirements for transportation services to/from child care locations.
  • Discontinue the prohibited practice of providing transportation services to/from religious instruction locations; if the School District wishes to continue this practice then create a policy statement with requirements for transportation services to/from religious instruction locations. Make the policies for transportation to/from child care and religious instruction equitable.
  • Create guidelines for establishing/reviewing bus stops. Make clear it is the parent’s responsibility to get the child to/from the bus stop safely.
  • Create guidelines to formalize the practice of special and/or temporary transportation arrangements to locations other than home or child care locations (scout meetings, birthday parties, play dates, work locations, etc.
  • Establish a policy on musical instruments, sports equipment, and other items on school buses.
  • Generally, confirm that the numerous failures identified in the October 2015 TAS Study were successfully addressed as described in the January 2016 TAS Report

Finally, it is worth noting again that the report was delivered to the school board and discussed only in executive session. There is no mention of, or even an allusion to, the board going into executive session for the purpose of receiving or discussing such a report. There is nothing in the report that would exempt the report from state Open Meeting Law. It should have been made available to the public before the board meeting, delivered and discussed in open session and remained available for download on the District web site. Even today, the District has failed to produce the Study in response to a Freedom of Information request by Talk of the Sound.

On January 30, 2019, we made the following request:

There was a report by Transportation Advisory Services in the fall of 2015 that was presented to the board. Lou Boffardi delivered the report. It was a review of busing and the department itself. I would like a copy of the report.

On February 7, 2019, we received the following non-responsive reply:

There was a presentation by Lou Boffardi of Transportation Advisory Services to the Board on March 1, 2016. You had mentioned in the fall of 2015. Please let me know if the March 1, 2016 report is what you are looking for.

We unambiguously requested the October 2015 report which we accurately described as a review of “busing and the department itself”; the March 2016 report is about RFPs only and clearly not what we requested. This is the sort of stonewalling tactic that is common to the New Rochelle Board of Education.

FOUR-PART SERIES ON SECRET TRANSPORTATION STUDY + SUMMARY + RELATED ARTICLE

PART I: 2015 Transportation Study Raises Many Unanswered Questions about New Rochelle School Bus Safety

PART II: New Rochelle BOE Fraudulently Claimed Millions in State Aid for Ineligible Bus Monitor Expenses, Study Finds

PART III: New Rochelle School Board Ignored Recommendations to Make Transportation Policy Safer, More Fair, More Efficient

PART IV: Secret New Rochelle School Transportation Study: No-Bid Contracts, No Required Voter Approval, Poorly Constructed RFPs, Plagiarism

SUMMARY: Talk of the Sound Releases Secret Transportation Study Improperly Withheld by New Rochelle BOE for Years

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