Friday, September 26, 2008
By James Lomuscio
Though Westport’s schools superintendent warned parents today of a possible bus drivers’ strike Wednesday morning, a bus company official says contract negotiations are progressing for the 75 drivers serving the Westport area.
Buses lined up at the Dattco school bus depot on Westport’s Post Road East today. A contract affecting 75 Westport drivers expires at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com
“There’s no strike set for Wednesday,” said Cliff Gibson, senior vice president of operations for New Britain-based Dattco.“Our contract expires at the end of September, and we have bargaining sessions set for Monday and, if necessary, Tuesday.
“At this time I would say both sides are at the table, and the talks are progressing,” he added.
An e-mail message from Schools Superintendent Elliott Landon to parents, however, gave the impression that a United Food and Commercial Workers Union strike is a strong possibility.
“If, in fact, collective bargaining between the bus company and the driver’s union fails at the expiration of the bus driver’s contract with Dattco at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 1, THERE WILL NOT BE BUS SERVICE to transport your children to and from school beginning Wednesday morning,” Landon said.
The e-mail went on to ask parents to arrange for their children’s transportation if a strike occurs.
“I urge you to consider forming car pools during this critical period,” Landon said, adding that the Westport Police Department has arranged to provide additional traffic officers “to direct traffic at high volume locations to ease the strain of traffic on our local roads and at each of our school sites.”
Though Gibson, whose company employs 800 drivers statewide, seemed to think there would be no strike, he did not fault the school district for overreacting.
“They’re being responsible,” he said. “They’re letting parents know in the event there is any interruption. It’s merely a precaution on their part.”
The precautions include earlier start times, a modified dismissal schedule and the cancellation of all before and after-school activities for the elementary schools.
“In the event of a strike, to accommodate the increased automobile traffic that is anticipated with parent drop-offs in the morning and pick-ups in the afternoon, drop-offs at Bedford and Coleytown Middle may be made as early as 7:30 a.m,” Landon said.
“However, we will maintain our regular starting and ending times for classroom instruction not only at Bedford and Coleytown Middle School, but also at Staples.”
If a drivers’ contract is negotiated before 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Landon said all student families will be notified via e-mail. A message will also be placed on the school’s information line, 341-1766.
If there is no settlement before 5 a.m., he added, parents will be notified to make alternative arrangements.
A call to a union official at Local 371 in Westport was not immediately returned.
Posted 09/26/08 at 11:04 PM
FOR THIS WE TOOK THE CONTRACT FROM A WESTPORT LOCAL COMPANY?
Please be advised that it was decided among the Principals and the Superintendent that at the elementary schools, it is crucial that students are connected with and go home with the appropriate adult at the end of the school day.
In looking at the logistics of connecting 500+ children in each school to parents/care-givers at the end of the school day, the elementary school principals and the superintendent felt it was important that the elementary schools have adequate time to accomplish this in a measured, safe manner. Thus, the decision was made to have the elementary schools run their short-day schedules during a possible strike.
This will enable students to stay in classrooms with their teachers and for the administration to ensure that students and parents are connected at the end of the day in a safe manner, which may take considerable time, given 500+ students. If we were to run a full day during the possible strike, most teachers and paraprofessionals would not have been available to assist with the dismissal of 500+ children to their parents, as many of our staff would have needed to leave at the end of their regular work day to care for their own children. Again, the short day schedule enables us to care for our students and reconnect them to their parents at day’s end in a safe, measured way.”
Hope this helps explain why it was decided to have shortened day, we are still hopeful that the negotiations currently underway will result in no bus strike.
Thank you for your understanding,
Theanne Feldman and Gina Beranek
Any update yet ??