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What parents and supporters are organizing for

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December 12, 2013

Mayor-elect Bill DeBlasio:

 

On behalf of New York City families whose children depend on safe, reliable school transportation, we would like to share with the new administrators of our city our collective determination to achieve:

 

 (a) Policies and practices that respect the civil rights of pre-school and school age students with disabilities and toddlers receiving early intervention (EI) services, whose specialized transportation is an aspect of their Individualized Education Programs (IEP).  You have seen the recommendations of Attorney Norman Siegel (attached) in response to complaints of violations.  Organizations of parents, disabled self-advocates, unions of school bus drivers and attendants, Early Intervention therapists and other educators are well equipped to advise on implementing these suggestions or variations on them;

 

(b) A commitment that the approximately 1500 routes being abandoned by the owners of Atlantic Express sometime between now and January continue to function, with the current experienced workforce, at least through June.  We must prevent any potential disruption of school attendance for tens of thousands of NYC schoolchildren this winter—even if the DOE budget has to be tapped to sustain fair wages and Employment Protection Provisions.  Our community cannot tolerate a repeat of the virtually useless contingency plan your predecessors invoked with the 2013 school bus strike;

 

(c) A hearing and/or confidential surveys to gather data about the quality of training and conditions at school bus companies, including those who were collectively awarded some 1100 special education routes in February 2013 and had to hire inexperienced people.  We need to hear from those who work or attempted to work at those companies, as well as from families of riders, and school staff, well in advance of the next round of bid proposals;

 

(d) A commitment to reinstate EPP.  We find it disturbing that the experienced multicultural school bus workforce--60% women who have achieved some financial empowerment over many years--are pushed towards poverty as the systematic dismantling of seniority hiring proceeds.  You have the legal power to withdraw awarded routes without EPP for Summer 2014 and Fall 2014 and start over with ‘Request for Proposal’ with EPP intact; likewise for the 4000 routes for Fall 2015 that are up for bid next.  Recent experience and common sense tell us that devaluing the school bus professionals who enable our children’s educational access will increase turnover, attrition, burnout, and risk of accidents and incidents. 

 

We look forward to progress on all these fronts; we are available to meet as needed. à

 

Signed,

 

Parents to Improve School Transportation, pistnyc@gmail.com

 

(for Bronx PIST: Milagros Cancel, Rosa Maria de la Torre; for Harlem PIST: Journelle Clark, Amy Herren; for Manhattan PIST: Sara Catalinotto, Johnnie Stevens; for Queens PIST: Sharlene Figueroa, Susan Valdes-Dapena)

Kwame Domani Stevens, recent school bus rider and PIST cartoonist

 

Carin van der Donk, school bus parent

 

Suzanne Peters, Board of Directors, Resources for Children with Special Needs*

 

Comite Timon de Madres de Educacion Especial, Rosa Lydia Velez class action chapter, Bronx

 

Ms. Nicole Job, President, Community Education Council 17, CEC17@schools.nyc.gov

Tiffany Caldwell ASD HORIZON PROGRAM* parent, taylorsmom78@gmail.com

Valerie Williams, 2nd Vice President, District 75 Community Education Council*

Norman Siegel, Civil Rights Attorney

 

Sandra Sanchez-Rolon, Military Women In Power, Ltd.

Sabretta Alford, school bus parent, Queens

Julia D'Amico, school bus parent

Beth Torin, school bus parent

Madeline Sinor, school bus parent

Loren Lockwood, school bus parent

Fatima Prioleau, school bus parent, Brooklyn

Anita Parker, CEO, Treat Me Right, Inc., Washington Heights

Larry Littman, Chelsea Coalition on Housing

Hebatalla Ibrahim, member, Citywide Council on English Language Learners*

Donna Lazarus, grandmother, retired teacher, Brooklyn

 

(List in formation; Organizations with * listed for identification purposes)

 

CC:  Public Advocate-elect Letitia James

 Comptroller-elect Scott Stringer

 Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

 Brooklyn Borough President-elect Eric Adams

 Manhattan Borough President-elect Gale Brewer

 Queens Borough President-elect Melinda Katz

 Staten Island Borough President-elect James Oddo

 

Councilmember-elect Inez Barron

Councilmember-elect Cory Johnson

Councilmember-elect Helen Rosenthal

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