Bus troubles not over for parents, School Committee

Nov 17, 2017

The firing of longtime school bus driver Ralph Stinson remains a sore spot for some Rochester parents, who say there has been a lack of response from the school system following Stinson's departure.

Stinson was fired from his job at Braga Transportation, for whom he drove for for three decades, in late September. At an October 13 meeting of the School Committee, parents demanded to know the reason for the firing. Old Rochester Superintendent Doug White couldn't quite give them that answer, telling them that the reason for the firing was confidential and not up for discussion.

A small group of concerned parents stopped into the November 16 Rochester School Committee meeting to voice their concerns with what they feel is an inadequate response from the school system and superintendent to their concerns over Stinson's firing, and their troubles with his replacement.

Stinson himself sat in the audience. He did not address the board directly, simply stating that he was "paying the price" for a lack of clear information in the case, as well as a lack of communication.

Rochester Memorial School principal Derek Medeiros caught up with Stinson at the end of the meeting. "I'm really, really sorry," he told him.

School Committee Chair Tina Rood advised the parents before the comments section of the meeting began that it was intended to give a statement and address the board—it was not a question and answer session, she said.

"It's very disheartening to not have [Stinson]," said parent Rhonda Baptiste. "Has there been any dialogue between the Superintendent and Braga Bus Transportation since the October 13 meeting?"

White said that there had not been.

"That's disappointing to hear," Baptiste told him.

Fellow parent Elizabeth Souza was concerned about the replacement bus driver who has taken over Stinson's route. "[Stinson] was always on time," she said. "Even if he was going to be early, he'd put on his lights and stop slowly. She just flies by."

Inconsistency in stopping times, she said, is driving her crazy. "Some days she's flying by at 8:15, some days she's there at 8:25, and pickup time is supposed to be 8:20," Souza explained. "I never know when to be out there. [Superintendent[ White said that his job was to get kids safely to and from school, and that isn't happening."

"Have you communicated with the school system?" Rood asked her. "Really, this isn't something we can do a lot about. The school system can address it with the bus company."

"What happens after I call them?" Souza asked. "When I emailed about [Stinson], I never got a response from anyone. Not from Doug White, not from the school, not from the bus company. So what happens if I call this time?"

"[Medeiros] will call the bus company and tell them your concerns," Rood told her. "I am sorry; that's definitely a problem you shouldn't be having."

As the meeting drew to a close, Rood noted that Stinson's case was considered "resolved," which Souza and Baptiste objected to. "It's not resolved for us," Baptiste said. "We're still dealing with it."

"We're trying to find a resolution together," Rood told her.