Northport/East Northport Busing Fail

Miscommunication surrounds busing routes and back-to-school preparations for Northport-East Northport Schools.

"Back-to-school" means preparation. Parents need to figure out if the shoes their child wore all summer still fit, buy replacements, get clothing, haircuts and supplies. If your child is very young, you start prepping his/her little mind for the separation. You might have discussed what school is like.  You might have talked with him/her about getting on the bus.  All suited up and ready to go, and many parents and children this past week were left stranded at the bus stop.

It seems the Northport/East Northport school district didn't do its own back-to-school preparation. In some instances, parents and children were left stranded. In others, paperwork was never completed for their son or daughter. One parent received paperwork confirming the route and pickup time of one of her sons, while receiving nothing for the other son.  In my family's case, a routing change needed to be made. My wife completed all of the paperwork properly and in a timely way, only to receive no confirmation that the change was made. She called the busing company and was given an email address to write; ostensibly, she could receive confirmation that way.  She wrote three times, only to have each email bounced back with a note indicating the email address wasn't valid. Later, the busing company refused to pick up its phone and its voice mail was too full to accept more messages. Ultimately, my wife had to drive to the office to communicate with a human being and have our issue addressed professionally.

This past week, Superintendent of Schools Marylou McDermott produced a robocall that went out to a random number of houses apologizing for the busing mishap (neither I nor others nearby received the call--a friend about five miles away received it). In the robocall, I'm told that McDermott blamed the problems on the hurricane (recall, Irene blew through more than seven days prior).

I'm skeptical of this excuse. This seems more like a competency and staffing issue. Busing has been outsourced to private companies. Their purpose isn't to deliver my son to school as much as it is to make profit for investors.  Whoever is in charge didn't have adequate staff to handle an entirely predictable event--the first day of school. Cost cutting? Enhanced profit? Accountability? Even if the hurricane is given the blame, what about howling winds in August prevented these busing companies from picking up their phones in September? The phone lines weren't down; my wife had spoken on the phone with our busing company earlier in the week--after the hurricane.  These were the phone calls during which my wife was given the inoperable email addresses.  

On Friday I emailed the superintendent asking for further clarification about the role of the hurricane in the busing mess. No response has been received yet. I hope she's doing her homework.

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Phil Dalton September 13, 2011 at 02:11 PM
We were successful in the change, but were never told with any certainty that the bus driver would be made aware of the change. My wife called the Northport Transportation Office with the change, on the final day of busing enrollment. The woman she spoke with told her to email the change. Her email was kicked back - non-operating address. She called again, and was again instructed to email. She said she'd call us to tell if she had or hadn't received it. We received no return call. Once again, the email was kicked back. So, my wife visited the office and stood there until someone decided to help her. At this point, she was told "It's probably too late." She agreed to process the change, but told my wife that the bus driver probably won't get an update. That means, "Your child will be dropped off at the wrong place." As you can imagine, that wasn't reassuring.
FYI September 14, 2011 at 06:58 PM
Phil...Get used to it. This is nothing new with the busing problems. It has been going on for years. I don't think that the issue is related to whether the work is outsourced or in-house. Your story can be written by any of dozens of people and the administration is only able, as always to come up with lame excuses. Who is the "Director" of Transportation for Northport and why are they still employed if the problems continue from year to year? But ultimately you need not worry. In 12 years this will no longer be your problem. This little stuff will pale in comparison by then.
Runner94 September 20, 2011 at 05:56 PM
I had a problem just getting my daughter registered for school! They separated her birth certificate from the actual registration papers and rather than reach out to me, they just let it go. 2 weeks before school starts and I'm scrambling to get her into a classrom. Oh, and SCOPE told me they had plenty of spots, sat on my paperwork too and then told me I was waitlisted. Thank God for family who could help out! I guess Northport figured I'd quit my job until they found a spot for her in aftercare. I debated sending her to private school prior to this....but I figured with what I pay in taxes, I should use the public schools. Unnecessary stress.
Scamp September 22, 2011 at 11:07 PM
Speaking of SCOPE, wouldn't Laurel Ave School make for a great Kindergarten (full-day) center?
Paul Kemp September 28, 2011 at 12:40 PM
What a crybaby. Get over it. So you had a little bit of inconvenience like everyone else. Stop acting like you're so entitled to perfection. I think the school does a great job...you don't think so? Go to another district and see how it goes. You are a typical Northport whiner. Why don't you blog something of value as opposed to finding an excuse to rank on the school?


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