Monday, August 27, 2007

District 150 Loses Child on First Day, Seems Puzzled When Parent Upset, Applicable Official Blows Off Meeting with Parent

You can get the full story here on peoria.com, but basically Diane Vespa's child was put on the wrong bus because of a clerical error. NINETY MINUTES after school let out, the school and transpo people had still not located her kindergartener. The school was helpful. The transpo people were not, and seemed puzzled as to why she was, you know, screaming hysterically into the phone. (Eventually the bus driver of the wrong bus brought him home.)

Anyway, she met with the District 150 transpo people (that post is on page 3 at peoria.com), and the District 150 Transportation Supervisor, Michael Sullivan, did not show up for the meeting. He sent a deputy supervisor and a field inspector. There are no emergency lost-child procedures in place and, Diane was informed, they have no intention of putting any emergency lost-child procedures in place.

The level of "unacceptable" going on here is unreal. It boggles my mind that the district doesn't already have lost-child procedures in place, since "kids on wrong bus" is not an unusual occurrence. There should at least be ways to communicate between the buses, dispatch, and the school or district administration. It should not take more than 15 minutes on CBs or radios or cell phones to locate a misplaced child if that child is still on the bus. And it certainly should not take more than 15 minutes to discover that the child has LEFT THE SYSTEM (gotten off at the wrong stop, been kidnapped) so that the police can be called and the cavalry called in.

I'm totally gobsmacked. Apparently to find a misplaced child in District 150, we have to put out an Amber Alert on school buses!

It's one thing not to have any procedures in place because your slap-dash method of coping with lost children on buses has worked until now. (Although with the number of emergency procedures District 150 does have in place for everything from tornadoes to school shootings, I'm rather shocked there's no lost-child procedure.) To state that now that the flaws in the system have been vividly and horrifyingly highlighted, you have no intention whatsoever of putting into place basic, commonsense procedures is irresponsible to the extreme. And, I must add, begging for a lawsuit -- the defense of which would be at taxpayer expense, of course.

Diane's a little worried that people might get annoyed with her for making a fuss about this. The heck you say! RABBLE MUST BE ROUSED, people. Fuss must be made. School board members must be petitioned. Administrators must be hassled. This is the institution responsible for our children 6 hours a day, and these are OUR public employees and OUR tax dollars at work. I want some answers, and I want them stat, and I want them from Michael Sullivan.

Peoria and District 150 talk a lot about wanting to lure and keep young professionals in the city instead of losing them to Dunlap and District 323. Well here's a memo: 1) Don't lose their children to start with; 2) Find them faster when you do; and 3) Send the highest-possible level official to answer to parents instead of blowing them off. And, hey, 4) Recognize when your policies are useless and fix them.

Administration contacts are here; transportation contacts are here; and your school board member contacts are here. Get to it. (And while we're at it, Keller's principal's contact info is here, and he deserves major props as the only person in this farce who was helpful.)

I look forward to responses from District 150's Transportation department and Administration, as well as the school board. I would like to know how they plan to address this issue and I am hopeful they will do so quickly and well.

9 comments:

firefly_124 said...

That is utterly insane. How can they even think that's remotely acceptable?

Anonymous said...

Be careful how you petition or it could turn into parts of Marin county and other CA districts where there is NO transportation to/from school whatsoever. Parents are liable themselves for depositing and returning their kids. Saves money and liability costs though it's not too convenient.

-b

Anonymous said...

It is more than just losing kids... it is buses not even showing up. If the driver fails to show for work, does Dist 150 get another driver? Nope, not that day at least. Do they call the parents to let them know their bus will not be coming that day? Nope. The same thing happens on the way home too. Hmm where is junior? Oh he is waiting at school for the bus that never came.

The parents in our neighborhood have waiting carpools at the bus stops just in case the bus does not show. This happens way way too often. You know there are plenty of parents who send junior off to the bus stop while they have to hustle off to work. Lay off the whole parenting issue for a sec, not everyone has a parenting friendly job. Recognize that a kid is expecting a bus. What if it does not come? What does the kid do? Truancy?

Mahkno

Henny Penny said...

Wow!

reno said...

Go get 'em, tiger.

anon e. mouse said...

First, nice use of British-English with "gobsmacked."

Second, you hit the nail on the head with Dist 150 transportation.

Knight in Dragonland said...

Unbelievable.

Diane Vespa said...

Thank you for this wonderful piece. We are meeting with District 150 Transportation Director Mike Sullivan today as well as Associate Superintendant Dr. Fisher. They are currently writing policy as we speak. We have been invited to offer our input based on last weeks incident involving our son. I will pass along your suggestions in this piece, as well as a list we have created on our own...suggestions stemming from an experience of sheer terror. I will be happy to keep your readers posted of the results of our efforts. Again, thank you for your work and committment to this issue!

Jennifer said...

This just happened to our son...looking for options to make them accountable. jennopia@gmail.com