Regional School Unit 16 bus driver Jill Bourgeois looks out the window of her bus at Poland Regional High School. (2017 Sun Journal file photo by Russ Dillingham)

 

POLAND — Bus drivers and parents addressed concerns about transportation issues with the Regional School Unit 16 board Monday evening.

Approximately 40 Poland residents attended. Some were among the 20 bus drivers at the meeting.

Board Chairperson Mary Martin allowed six people to speak.

The first was longtime bus driver Mark Chase, who was the lead negotiator for drivers in contract talks with then-Superintendent Tina Meserve in 2017.

“Can you unequivocally say that you are not interested in privatization  and have not and will not look into the privatization of transportation for RSU 16?” he asked.

Martin said several years ago the subject was briefly brought up by the municipal leaders of Mechanic Falls, Minot and Poland when Auburn and Lewiston decided to go that route.

She said the board has no interest to do so this year and it is not in the discussion for next year.

Parents Karen Daigneault, Caitlin Rawson, Maureen Heath and Deb Libby said buses may be within legal limits for the number of students on board but with loaded backpacks, musical instruments, athletic gear and other paraphernalia, there are safety issues which should be considered.

Buses can carry up to 77 students, three to every seat except one which fits two students.

Rawson and Harvey Leighton, whose wife drove a bus, said sometimes there is difficulty contacting the transportation office when a bus gets stuck in a snowbank or hits a patch of ice and slides off the road.

Until two weeks ago, radio contact between the bus drivers and the office was unavailable, Leighton said.

Drivers had to pull off to the side of the road and contact another driver by cellphone if a problem developed, Rawson said. Even with the radio contact, it was difficult to get a response, she said.

Martin thanked those who spoke and said she believes the issues will be added to a future board agenda.

In other matters, Bruce M. Whittier Middle School Principal Shawn Vincent said staff are focusing on four goals for students and teachers:

1. Practice and improve student writing across the curriculum;

2. Build consistent connections with the school community, particularly connecting parents to more school activities;

3. Reallocate time to meet needs in teacher evaluation and professional growth; and

4. Provide a comprehensive system of support for all students, especially at-risk students, so they can meet middle school standards for easier transition into high school.

The school board was introduced to the district’s school resource officer, James Jacques, who began duties March 1.

Gavin Bourgoin, student representative on the school board, said a Red Cross blood drive will be held from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, March 28, at the high school.

The school board approved Superintendent Ken Healey’s recommendation to extend administrative contracts through 2020 to Minot Consolidated School Principal Kaitlynn Brown, Elm Street School Principal Jessica Madsen and Poland Community School Assistant Principal Brandi Comeau.

 


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