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Bus drivers dismissed after pupils abandoned

SoVaNow.com / April 13, 2009
Two buses drivers who earlier this year left young students on their school buses have been dismissed from their jobs as a result of action taken by the School Board on Thursday.

Also losing their jobs were the two aides who rode those school buses to assist the drivers. The two separate incidents came within days of each other, with the first occurring on Thursday, January 29 when a Pre-K child who failed to get off the bus at the Early Learning Center in South Boston was left on the bus for several hours before being discovered.

In the second incident which occurred on February 4, a four year old student who attends Cluster Springs Early Learning Center did not get off the bus there and was transported to the Scottsburg community. He was later spotted walking down US Route 360 near Scottsburg Elementary School before another bus driver picked him up.

Both the drivers and the aides were suspended from their jobs and the matter was turned over to the Department of Social Services for an investigation. Reports on both cases came back to the school administration last week, just days prior to the School Board’s meeting on Thursday evening.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Stapleton said he felt that school trustees had no options other than to dismiss the individuals involved after receiving the results of the investigations by the Child Protective Services. The decision to dismiss the four came after trustees had discussed the matter in closed session.

Also following the closed session, trustees voted not to renew contracts for four non-tenured teachers for the coming year.

Trustees also decided to allow two students to re-enter school since they had both completed their year-long suspensions. But two others, a middle school student and a high school student, were expelled for conduct infractions.

During their regular monthly meeting on Thursday, trustees approved the $63,007,330 school budget for the coming year. The amount is $931,598 less than the current year’s budget, with the largest cut — $454,697 — taken out of the transportation budget. Much of the cut stems from the implementation of a dual busing system in South Boston.

The second largest cutback targeted instructional expenses, which were reduced by $305,157.

Approval of the budget came on a 5-3 vote with ED4 trustee Joe Gasperini, ED#5 trustee Roger Long and ED8 trustee Walter Potts all voting in opposition. All three based their “no” votes on their disappointment with Board of Supervisors’ decision to cut the budget by $330,000. They noted the School Board was told it would receive level funding (the same amount as this year).

“It hurts the students,” said Gasperini, with Potts noting that he does “not see it getting any better next year.” Long said he hopes that school trustees and supervisors can work together in better faith next year.

School Board members also approved the recommendation made by its Honor Roll Committee to continue the current policy for determining honor roll students for elementary grades. That policy states that all honor roll students must have an A, B, E or S in all subject areas, including physical education, library, art and music along with a satisfactory conduct grade. It had earlier in the year been suggested that honor roll names should be based on an average grade.

Administrators with Clays Mill and Scottsburg Elementaries were presented with certificates of Excellence Awards recognizing their pursuit of academic excellence resulting in a significant percentage of students demonstrating advanced proficiency across the curriculum. Meadville and all the County schools received a certificate of Competence to Excellence Awards recognizing their pursuit of academic excellence resulting in an increasing percentage of students who demonstrated advanced proficiency across the curriculum.

Mary Hamlett was recognized by the Board for her selection as the winner of the Black Engineer of the Year STEM Global Competitiveness Award and Ricky Gordon introduced the recent winners of the FIRST Robotics Competition.

Trustees got their first look at suggested changes to the Code of Student Conduct which they will study and then discuss at their May meeting.

According to Stapleton, trustees are continuing to interview candidates for the principal’s job at the Middle School since Gail Bosiger has announced her retirement. Stapleton said the five-member panel interviewing candidates for the position has already talked with nine and the position is still open.

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