School bus company: Drivers need clean records
BRIDGEPORT — Individuals with criminal backgrounds can’t get behind the wheel of one of the city’s 29,800-pound city school buses despite the second-chance mind set of some city school board members.
State laws governing school driver licensing prohibit it, the city school board was told Monday, when it agreed, by a 6-0 vote to a three-year contract with We Transport.
The insurance carrier for We Transport also frowns upon it, Andrew Ifill, the local manager for We Transport told the board.
“We don’t hire anyone with a criminal history,” Ifill said, adding he is willing to attach the company’s hiring policy as an addendum to the contract.
“It looks like (We Transport) has standards in place more stringent than we would have looked to draft,” Mark Anastasi, a city attorney, told the school board.
The new three-year contract has remained in limbo since a January 28 meeting of the board when Board member Chis Taylor objected to contract language that prohibited individuals convicted of certain crimes from driving school buses.
Taylor, an ex-offender himself with past misdemeanor convictions, said he was out to allow others criminal histories to get the chance at decent paying jobs. He got up and left the January board meeting, leaving it without a quorum and preventing a vote from being taken.
Taylor was absent from Monday’s meeting.
Other board members, including Board member Hernan Illingworth questioned seemingly vague contract language that would keep someone with litigious backgrounds from the job.
“If I slip and fall and sue city, would that prevent me (from driving a school bus),” Illingworth asked.
Anastasi said the contract language is largely based on state statues and also language designed to charge We Transport with being careful to ferret out individuals deemed to be irresponsible, lacking in moral character or who would not be appropriate for working with minors in a school environment.
It is vague on purpose, the board was told.
We Transport has had the district’s school bus business since 2010. The new contract will run through 2022. with contract cost increases totaling 3.96 over three years. It adds $718,000 to the $18 million contract.
In exchange the district has been promised 15 new buses in the first year, and 25 new buses in each of following two years of the contract.
The negotiated deal is less than what We Transport bid on the contract. At no additional cost, We Transport also agreed to provide a van with car seats to transport students and their children to the new early childhood program at Harding. It was reportedly a request from Schools Superintendent Aresta Johnson.
Chief Financial Officer Marlene Siegel told Board Chairman John Weldon that if the contract was not sealed by the end of February, We Transport could renegotiate the price and the new buses the district is to receive for 2019-20 may not make it for the start of the new school year.
Ifill told the board that getting a school bus license in the state is tough, generally taking three to four months. A criminal background check is done at the city, state and federal level.
In April 2018 a school bus driver in Stratford — who worked for We Transport — was arrested for allegedly selling and buying heroin out of his school bus. Ifill said the man had no previous record. He was terminated, Ifill said.