Transportation for Buffalo Students
Updated: Nov 14, 2018
Tour of First Student
On Thursday, November 8, I had the opportunity to meet with First Student General Manager Sean McCabe and other First Student staff. I toured their Training & Recruitment Center and two of five First Student locations which provide transportation for Buffalo Public Schools. It was an educational and eye opening experience. I observed a vast system and complex operation. I appreciated the managers taking the time to show me some of the moving parts and answering some hard questions. I met and talked with drivers, new recruits in training, trainers, a newly hired driver for BPS, and mechanics. I was impressed with the diversity of the workforce.
Below are pictures from the Training and Recruitment Center. It features kiosks to complete an application and 3 classrooms for training. Almost all of the new recruits featured below are for Buffalo Public Schools!
Transportation Forum for Buffalo Students
On Saturday, November 10, I helped organize and moderate a BPS Parent Congress Forum on Transportation for Buffalo Students. We first learned about positive changes to NFTA passes for high school students. A new 2-year contract will go before the BOE on Wednesday, the first new contract with NFTA in almost 30 years!
I commend the BOE, Superintendent, and especially, General Counsel Nate Kuzma for making it a top priority to compel change in NFTA policies and for taking the time to include parents in the process. I also commend NFTA management for their partnership. It’s been a struggle at times, but I acknowledge that they have worked with us and negotiated in good faith.
Changes in NFTA policies, which have begun this school year, reflect the input from parents, students, educators, and community, to provide more access and center on learning and enrichment. Most importantly, I commend the many who have collectively raised their voices on this issue.
The forum focus then shifted to First Student Transportation for our elementary students. Four representatives from First Student and a representative from BPS attended to hear from the public. Several parents spoke on continued concern with late buses in the morning and in the evening. One parents spoke about her child not getting to school, sometimes, as late as 11:00 a.m. Some parents raised concern with supporting students with disabilities. A question was raised on whether drivers and aides have access to student IEPs and the answer was no. Having an aide on every bus remained a concern for a few. One parent suggested using teacher aides to also serve as bus aides. A BPS representative validated this suggestion and indicated that there are ongoing talks between the two unions which represent bus aides and teacher aides to make this come to fruition. School 81 PTO President indicated that late buses are interfering with students ability to fully access community-based after school programs, which parents have pre-paid for. Another parent, with the help of a BPS student to interpret, indicated that she gets frequent calls from First Student, but can't understand them because they are not translated into her primary language.
It was clear that we have much work to do here. With most of our students relying on bus transportation to get to and from school, this is a transportation and education justice matter. Improving First Student transportation will remain a top priority for myself as this year progresses. We need safe and reliable transportation for all of our children, and transportation which is adequately staffed, timely, and responsive to parents.
Below are pictures from the Transportation Forum: