Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My letter to the School Board about the JCPS transportation mess

After watching the horror stories of lost kids and terrified parents yesterday, I have some questions that I'd like answered and comments I'd like to make. 

  • Dr. Berman was quick to lay blame at the feet of three principals, calling them ill prepared and noting they had not practiced the plans.   Berman then acknowledged later they needed to make sure principals printed out the tags before the first day of school.  Why was this not a requirement of Rick Caple and his transportation team to follow up on?   Why isn't Caple or his staff suspended as well?
  • Will there be any analysis of ALL elementary schools to see if perhaps King, Lincoln, and Chancey were impacted by their own special circumstances as much as they were being unprepared?   Is it possible other schools weren't prepared but got lucky by virtue of the makeup of their student body that they weren't impacted?    Berman himself said, "This is about how you deal with a magnet school and how it interfaces with a regular transportation system.  Is that pretty clear?"  If Berman thought magnet schools were an exception, why didn't he or his well paid transportation staff give them special attention?    
  • Dr. Berman pointed out that many of the students at these schools were ESL.   Does this speak to the need to provide better outreach to these students and parents to try to avoid this problem in the future? 
  • This happened at the END of the school day.  Were schools required as part of that first day's housekeeping to make sure that EACH student's afternoon transportation needs were identified early and that if they weren't clear, that parents were contacted?  If they weren't, why not?  Seems like a great time to try to clear this up rather than 5 PM.  
  •  Dr. Berman didn't know the circumstances surrounding the worst incidents of students being late, nor did he know if the children who were delivered late received any food.  In fact, he seems angry at the question about food.   Why?  How can it not dawn on the leader of an organization devoted to children that one of the most important things might be the child's comfort?   Does it bother any of you that Berman didn't know this fact almost a full day later?    He said "the children were well cared for".  How does he know that?  
  • Dr. Berman's comment about if principals were adequately prepared for the plan, he mentioned monthly meetings and said he told them, "Thank you for all of your effort, this is the most critical first day we've had, and I know you're all behind it."    Having spent the last ten years managing projects, I know that a blanket statement to dozens of individuals is a lot different than making sure that people are prepared individually.   Does Dr. Berman really think lofty statements like this are a guarantee everything will go smoothly, and does he think that it's better to punish principals than to make sure they're going to follow through on the thing he considers so critical? 
  • Dr. Berman said "I think the press exaggerated the situation to some degree."   Really?   Which part?   He then tries to point to statistics to show that all but 200 students got home by 6:30.   Isn't that 2 and 1/2 hours after school lets out?    Is it okay to the School Board that Berman seems to think those 200 are simply a statistical anomaly and not worthy of outrage?   
Since I've had a child at JCPS, I've seen Dr. Berman blame his staff and principals for suspending after school programs.   I've seen him blame weathermen for not accurately predicting rush hour weather on a day when buses were skidding all over the ice and snow.  And now he places the blame on principals for additional transportation failures.   It's time that YOU hold Dr. Berman accountable since he seems incapable of doing it himself.