Thursday, February 23, 2012

Missing Mr. Ralph


While my two oldest boys, Chip and Corey, were in high school, they had the same bus and same bus driver for all four years. The bus was on time 99% of the time, both for the pickup and dropoff in the afternoon.

For my two youngest children, Ashley and Ronnie, they are lucky if they have only four different bus drivers and busses each school year. There is no consistency from year to year, often from month to month, and that makes it really difficult for both the drivers and aides who need to know my children and the effect of their disabilities, as well as for my children, both of whom do best with a consistent routine. And having the bus arrive on time??? Almost never.

But I finally got lucky with Ashley’s transportation last November. After complaining about the greatly inconsistent schedules of her assigned bus, schedule problems which kept me from ever getting to work on time, Ashley was assigned a new bus and lo and behold, it was a bus driver that she knew!

Mr. Ralph was Ashley’s driver last year for some of the year. He understands her, and often comes up with great ideas on how to make the ride to school less stressful for her. He is always on time which means I make it to work on time. So everything was going great…..until Tuesday of this week.

Twenty five minutes after the allotted pickup time, Ashley’s bus finally shows up with a different driver. As Ashley starts back to her seat, I begin asking the driver to at least radio his dispatcher if he is going to be that late in the future and the dispatcher can call me. Tuesday morning we waiting outside in the sub-freezing temperatures for 30 minutes. The driver immediately went into defensive mode saying he was just a substitute driver. I asked again for a call to the dispatcher in the future, and he just rolled his eyes and turned away.

Wednesday morning the bus was only 10 minutes late, and yet another new driver was in charge. At least she said that she had radioed dispatch, but dispatch never called me. The driver seemed nice enough, but I asked when Mr. Ralph would be back. She said he wasn’t coming back because he had been transferred to another bus.

Deep and heavy sigh…..

Of course, when things are working well, let’s just mix them up again. That seems to be my school district’s philosophy. I completely understand that running transportation for a school district as large as mine is not an easy job. But it is a job that I assume the folks in the department are trained to do. Does it really have to be as difficult as it seems to be?

And why is it always the special education students who have to put up with the most changes? Special education students who do best when life is predictable and routine? Why can’t the bus transportation for my children receiving special education students be as good as it is for regular education students? Maybe, School District, you should try switching the managers of those two departments and see if it makes a difference….

1 comment:

Spaz Girl said...

As a short bus alumnus, I wanted to simultaneously laugh and cry when I read this post. I went twelve years in school taking the short bus, playing the waiting game, wondering if the bus was going to show up late or show up at all. Often a new driver would show up out of the blue, or a new kid would suddenly be on our bus, and there would be no explanation whatsoever. I was lucky if I ever knew the bus driver's name. A few times the driver would take a detour and drive somewhere completely unfamiliar, leaving me to wonder if he was going to attack us, if he was picking someone else up, and if we would ever get to school. One memorable year the bus got to school "on time", leaving only five minutes for me to get up three flights of stairs, go to my locker, and go down one flight of stairs to get to class on time. Yet when I asked the attendance lady for a late pass, she refused to give it to me, because the bell hadn't rang yet. So I skipped going to my locker in the morning only to be yelled at by my first period teacher for not having my textbook. It is a screwed up, dysfunctional system. I had one driver who not only drove ridiculously fast, but was constantly on his cell phone. I was on the bus alone with him one afternoon, since all the girls on my bus had to stay after school, and I was absolutely terrified. It is ridiculous that I can probably count on one hand the number of times I actually felt safe on the bus. The drivers were often incompetent and had no idea how to do the tie-downs for the wheelchair users on our bus, resulting in the tie-downs being done improperly, or even not at all. Senior year of high school, I finally had the best short bus driver I've ever had. Sad part was, he had been driving my best friend's bus to another school in the district, so in exchange for him driving us, she got another incompetent driver. My mom was on the phone with the bus company at least once a week, and it was difficult for her to drive me to school because she needed to get to work on time. Now that I'm in college, I look back on my short bus experience and the full realization of how dysfunctional it really was is hitting me. It is really sad that the experiences I had are not uncommon for short bus riders. I think the bus companies think that they can get away with providing inferior service because we're disabled students, we obviously don't *learn* anything at school, it's not as important for us to be there, and we would never actually report the shitty things they do! It is truly f*cked up. I salute you, a short bus mom, fighting to make sure your children get quality bus service. I know where you're coming from and my mom does too.