Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Report Finds Fault with School Busing

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Report Finds Fault with School Busing

Article excerpt

PATERSON -- The school district's student busing program was plagued with widespread irregularities during the past three years, including numerous failures to comply with state laws on public contracts, according to an investigator's report.

Loyal and dependable bus companies lost their contracts with the district, while other firms with questionable track records were hired, said the 22-page report compiled by Passaic Valley Investigations, a firm hired by the school district to review its student transportation problems.

Among the bus companies hired over the past three years was the Wallington-based firm that was transporting a Paterson student who died after she fell from the rear emergency door of a moving bus, the report said.

The district also failed to obtain required approvals from the Passaic County superintendent's office on scores of busing contracts, violated state procedures in awarding "emergency" contracts and did not solicit bids for routes when major changes were made, as required, the report said.

Bus companies were transporting city students and being paid for the work even though their contracts were not approved by the Passaic County schools superintendent, the report said.

The report said the transportation department staff "failed to ensure school district compliance with all federal, state and local laws and regulations regarding student transportation services." The failures went beyond contracting issues, the report said.

Senior staff members in the district's transportation department had refused to speak with parents who had complaints on busing issues, instead referring them to the private firms doing the work, the report said.

In one instance in 2014, a request for a new route to provide busing for a homeless student went unaddressed for more than a month, the report said.

The document also cited the first day of school in September 2014 when "many children were left on the street without buses."

Many redactions

Through a public records request, Paterson Press received a copy of the Feb. …

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