School bus workers rebuked

Balto. Co. suspends drivers, aide for leaving children unattended

February 24, 2000|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Two Baltimore County school bus drivers and an attendant have been placed on indefinite suspension and probably will be fired for leaving children unattended, school officials said yesterday.

County officials, responding to a proposal by two state legislators, said they see no reason for the county's taking control of the school system's troubled transportation department.

"It's impractical for Baltimore County to assume that responsibility," said County Council member Kevin B. Kamenetz, a Randallstown Democrat. "The transportation system is closely aligned with school scheduling and their calendar."

Workers who are fired can appeal to the county and state boards of education, said schools spokesman Charles A. Herndon. "They'll get their due process," he said, referring to the two drivers and the attendant.

All three employees -- including Carol Westbrook, the school bus driver who left a Glenmar Elementary School pupil on a bus Tuesday -- will be represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said Thomas Kelleher, senior council representative.

"We have 700 people who care very, very much about pupils," said Kelleher. "We don't know why the rules are not being adhered to."

Westbrook will likely be terminated as the result of a new "zero-tolerance" policy imposed by schools Superintendent Anthony G. Marchione at a school board meeting Tuesday. Also likely to be fired are the bus driver and attendant who left a 4-year-old pupil at Red House Run Elementary School in Rosedale alone on a bus last week.

At Tuesday's meeting, Marchione made it clear that the policy -- which dictates that school bus drivers and attendants be fired if they fail to check buses for students -- went into effect last week.

The school bus driver and attendant who left a 3-year-old pre-kindergarten pupil at Halstead Academy elementary school on a school bus for about four hours last month were suspended for five days without pay but will probably keep their jobs, a source said.

Marchione's announcement follows pressure from state lawmakers, who have proposed that the county run the bus system for the public schools.

Those lawmakers scolded Transportation Director Rita Fromm, a 25-year transportation specialist and former bus driver, during a hearing in Annapolis last week.

County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger said yesterday through a spokeswoman that he is hesitant to take on the transportation department, as suggested by Sens. Thomas L. Bromwell and Michael J. Collins, both Baltimore County Democrats.

"As far as the legislation goes, I don't think he is inclined to take control of certain aspects of the school system," said spokeswoman Elise Armacost.

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