Officials for the township school district stripped about half their school bus routes from the Negba bus company and distributed them to three other bus carriers as a result of public outcry, said Michael Inzelbuch, school board attorney.
The school board heard complaints over several months from parents who said Negba was unreliable, leaving children to wait in the cold and taking unauthorized bus routes. Last year, the bus company was cited for drivers taking students on personal errands.
In early February, police ticketed bus drivers with 21 offenses including running red lights, running stop signs, talking on cell phones, failing to have riders wear seat belts and missing documents.
The police response was a result of chronic complaints by residents.
“While the board has no reason to cast aspersions, nevertheless, the board has correctly decided action must be taken in a form of reassigning routes and possible litigation” against the vendor, Inzelbuch said. “The board hopes no further action will be needed regarding the remaining routes.”
Negba has offices in Lakewood and Linden. Negba continues to cover about 95 routes in the school district, Inzelbuch said.
Half of Negba’s routes were reassigned to three other companies–Klarr Transport Services, Jay’s Bus Service and Central Bus Service, all of Lakewood, said Superintendent Lydia R. Silva.
Pulling Negba’s routes was “reasonable and prudent” in light of all the complaints that the district received about the company, said Gus Kakavas, Lakewood school transportation director.
Negba does not meet the district’s standards for providing transportation service to children, Silva said.
School board member Abraham Ostreicher voiced concern at Thursday’s Board of Education meeting about the board’s actions against Negba, warning it could lead to litigation against the district.
“Are you saying money is more important than children?” board member Yechezkel Seitler responded.The school district also came to an agreement with vendors to place cameras on some buses. The school board originally wanted all buses equipped with cameras after a December incident where a driver accused four teenage boys on her bus of intimidating her by crowding behind her driver’s seat after she asked the boys to stop speaking favorably about the Ku Klux Klan and its violence against blacks.
Kakavas said the bus vendors agreed that 10 percent of the buses could be equipped with cameras with no cost to the district.
The school board also approved a resolution that would allow a preliminary program where GPS units will be installed on select buses.
Moshe Suissa, a representative of BusTraq, a company that provides GPS and monitoring cameras in vehicles for accountability, said his company is working with the district to install devices that would record attributes such as speed and location of the vehicles. BusTraq is working with the administration and installing the equipment on a trial basis at no cost to the district, Suissa said.