Citywide Council on Special Education

PUBLIC MEETING WITH MATTHEW BERLIN

General Summary

The Citywide Council on Special Education held a public meeting at Norman Thomas High School on November 18, 2010. The subject was school busing and Matt Berlin, Director of the Office of Pupil Transportation was an invited guest. The format of the meeting was a question and answer session. Parents and others where given three minutes each to make comments or ask questions. Matt Berlin responded. At the end of the meeting, the CCSE members asked Matt Berlin questions about the issues that had been raised throughout the evening. About 50 parents attended the meeting.

According to Matthew Berlin:

  • OPT transports 60,000 students with an annual budget of $600 million.
  • Time-limits: students with medical codes is 60 minutes; without medical code is 90 minutes in-borough and 105 minutes out-of-borough.
  • A new computer system is being implemented for the IEP process.
  • Buses are required to wait three minutes for a child at pick-up.
  • Bus drivers and escorts are required to speak English.
  • Parents can check on their child’s transportation status on DOE Web site.
  • At OPT “we are transportation people”

Summary of Complaints from Parents and others (Union reps, teachers, etc.)

  • Children are late to school.
  • Bus journeys to and from school are over all time limits (some as long as 4 hours a day in total).
  • Routes are changed frequently.
  • Notifications of route changes come after the fact.
  • Transportation problems interfere with our children’s education, which they are legally entitled to with equal access.
  • Bus problems this school year have been particularly bad.
  • Bus routes are cut at the beginning of the year and then added back within the first two weeks.
  • Drivers must drive exact route that OPT gives them.
  • Calling OPT customer service does no good.
  • OPT customer service reps are rude and unresponsive.
  • Some buses drivers refuse to come to rough neighborhoods.
  • Some parents have lost their jobs because of bus problems.
  • Some children come home soiled because they are on the bus too long.
  • Mixed ages on bus: very young children are on bus with teenagers.
  • Mixed disabilities on bus: young children are mixed with emotionally disturbed and violent students. (In one of the cases described the young child is blind)
  • Many routes are erratic and illogical.
  • Drivers, matrons, bus company, and OPT staff are not given adequate sensitivity training.
  • Some drivers and escorts do not speak English.
  • No input from schools or drivers on routing.

Summary of responses from Matthew Berlin

  • 60,000 students are a lot to transport so it is difficult to solve problems.
  • DOE is moving from paper to computer system for IEPs so information will not get dropped
  • There are fewer bus complaints this year than last.
  • Frequent re-routing takes place because many more extended day students were moved into bus system this year.
  • We are reorganizing and hiring new staff to deal with safety.
  • One third of routes change in October.
  • Parents should continue to call OPT customer service and file complaints and they can email him.
  • Bus routes are cut at the beginning of the year because they are only 50,000 students enrolled so they don’t need them. They are gradually re-added as 10,000 more students enroll.
  • OPT will modify a route if a driver requests it and the request makes sense.
  • In the case of an accident it is the bus company’s responsibility to inform the parents within 15 minutes.
  • It is the policy of DOE to mix ages on buses and OPT just follows suit.
  • Parents should notify OPT if a driver or escort does not speak English.
  • Mr. Berlin is not familiar with the IEP process
  • Mr. Berlin speaks to his boss hourly.
  • Mr. Berlin asked parents to give members of his staff present at the meeting their child’s name, ID, and complaint numbers so they could solve their bus problems.
  • Mr. Berlin wants to solve all the problems and is proactive in doing so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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