PIST comment on OPT "help" desk contract

Thursday, November 18, 2021 1:00:00 PM

at PEP meeting Nov 17, 2021

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Item 12 should be tabled until DOE truly engages the Disabled community, parents, schools, and school bus workers. 

Even the MTA has Accessibility Committees with advocates, self-advocates, and the transit union. OPT ridership is 35% kids with disabilities, and 3% in temporary housing. Where are their advocates? Hire them to consult, train, and answer the phone. Don’t outsource, get live New Yorkers who speak all the languages.  

The DOE’s tech is the least intuitive or user-friendly. Just to find this contract item took several steps of trial and error. I copied the final link to share, but it goes to a sign-in page. This is not community engagement.  

    Parents don’t speak in terms like Tier 1, Tier 2, escalate, and vendor. A vendor is someone who sells fruit outside, not a millionaire bus boss. 

OPT brags ‘every route has a vendor’ but downplays the lack of drivers to do one route each day. Their emphasis on low bids has emboldened private vendors to cut wages, benefits, and quality, but never profits. 

    With 9.4 million, bring drivers back from early retirement, so we don’t have crowded, late and no-show buses to call about. Bring Covid testing & shots to the bus yards.

Just last night, we heard D75 parents and school staff describe their bus misery. OPT took no blame, just credit for bringing the phone wait time down from 2 hours, in week 6

What OPT did not say publicly but has come to our attention is that routes are being consolidated. Neither the pandemic nor electric buses are a good excuse for loading up the bus rosters with the maximum number on general education routes and no attendant, or with more special education students than are mandated to be in class together making the ride still longer and leading to students sitting side by side in an airborne pandemic. 

Families are in mental distress from busing problems, made worse by how they’re treated on the phone. Throwing heartless technology at this crisis solves nothing. 

Pay the drivers what they need & get the kids to school on time. 


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