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MDUSD special ed bus update tonight

By Theresa Harrington
Monday, October 3rd, 2011 at 3:26 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

Those who have been wondering what the Mt. Diablo school district is doing to remedy its problems with special education busing could get some answers tonight.

During the monthly special education Community Advisory Committee meeting, transportation service coordinator Angie Goakey is slated to present a transportation update. Last month, a scheduled transportation update by Jeff McDaniel, director of Maintenance and Operations, was postponed due to his sudden medical leave of absence.

Here is the agenda for tonight’s meeting, which is open to the public:

DATE: October 3, 2011
TIME: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
PLACE: Dent Center – Board Room

1. Call to Order 7:00

2. Introductions (7:02 – 7:05)
Please notify the audience during introductions if you are recording the meeting

3. Adoption of Minutes – September 12, 2011 (7:05 – 7:10)

4. Presentations: (7:10 – 7:40)

Assist. Technology & Alternative Augmentative Communication – Bryan Cassin and Staff

Transportation Update – Angie Goakey

5. Chairperson’s Report – Lorrie Davis (7:40 – 7:50)

6. Celebration of Success Update- Hilary Shen (7:50 – 8:00)

7. Old Business (8:00 – 8:20)

7.1 Assistant Superintendent’s Report – Dr. Mildred D. Browne

7.2 Board of Education Report – Lynne Dennler

7.3 Board of Education Comments – Sherry Doyle and Denise Lambert

7.4 Parent Advisory Committee Report – Tricia Tamura-Li

7.5 Budget Advisory Committee Report – Tricia Tamura-Li

7.6 Equity Advisory Team Report – Dorothy Weisenberger

7.7 EL Master Plan Task Force – Morena Grimaldi


8. New Business (8:30 – 8:45)

8.1 Nurses’ Report – Bea Agronow

8.2 Extended School Year – Samantha Espinosa and Carolyn Patton

8.3 Parent Liaison – Hilary Shen

8.4 Blog Committee Update – Autumn Green

8.5 Legislative Committee Update – Wendy Citron

9. Public Comment (8:45 – 8:55)

Public comment is an opportunity to share concerns and comments with the CAC. In the interest of time, speakers are limited to three (3) minutes each with a total of fifteen (15) minutes for all speakers. Please respect student and personnel privacy. CAC members and district staff may not be able to respond to individual concerns in this forum, but will take your contact information and follow-up with you.

10. Information
Items/Announcements/Adjournment (8:55 – 9:00)


Last week, I continued to hear from parents who were not satisfied with the district’s transportation of their special education students.

Do you believe the district is doing all it can to remedy special education transportation problems?

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65 Responses to “MDUSD special ed bus update tonight”

  1. Doctor J Says:

    I doubt there will be very many parents to ask questions about special ed bussing — so little notice, and they have their hands full at night.

  2. Just J Says:

    You are right Dr. J. They don’t give notice and parents of special needs kids have every last bit of energy going to the kids. It is not easy to find child care.

  3. Just J Says:

    Theresa, Could you give us an update on last nights meeting? I was unable to attend. Thank you!

  4. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Unfortunately, I was also unable to attend, because I had to work a cops beat shift last night.
    I’ll try to find out what happened.

  5. Sue Berg Says:

    Dr J, “so little notice”? This was the regular monthly meeting of the Community Advisory Committee, whose members are parents of special needs students. This committee has been overseeing the district’s programs and services for these students since it was established under the 1999 Consent Decree. The monthly meetings have always been well attended; members take their role seriously and ask tough questions. Perhaps you don’t know about this committee and its meetings, but advocates for special needs students certainly do.

  6. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Sue, It’s true that the regular members of the CAC are well aware that they are held on the first Monday of the month.
    However, it would be helpful if the district would post the agendas and minutes on its website, so those who don’t regularly attend would know if something of interest will be discussed, such as busing. And those who aren’t able to attend could easily find out afterward what was discussed.

  7. Wait a minute Says:

    Sue B,

    Everyone knows the MDUSD is playing games here because of the serious and ongoing Spc-Ed bussing fiasco.

    Fist, Jeff McDaniel dissapeared so as to no have to answer questions at the Sept meeting. I think he does not want to be the fall-guy for Greg Rolen on these problems. Hopefully Jeff protects himself by making a complaint to the CC Grand Jury if he knows of greater issues or was pressured by Rolen in any way to be the fall-guy.

    Second, by not electronically posting the agenda in a timely fashion the district is making it very hard for parents to see what is being discussed and make the arrangements they need to in order to attend.

    Third and by far the biggest issue here,

    Neither Greg Rolen or Stevie Lawrence have any intention of taking any responsibility for these problems even though they bear the ultimate responsibility as the leaders of the MDUSD and Transportation.

    In fact they are actively trying to downplay these (and many other) serious issues and shift the blame down the chain of command because that is the kind of people they are!

  8. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I just received an e-mail from the parent of a former Glenbrook MS student who said the district is trying to squeeze three students to a seat on buses to El Dorado MS, which he says is unsafe.
    Students are halfway in the aisles and could be injured if the bus were to get into an accident, he says.
    He has emailed the board, but has received no response.
    He said a transportation worker told him “it’s perfectly safe for the student to have one cheek on the seat and one in the aisle.”
    He’s being charged $85 a semester for this service.
    Do you think the district is providing adequate transportation to these former Glenbrook students?

  9. Doctor J Says:

    Well Sue, nice to have you back — please no more double identity posts. Theresa #6 said my thoughts much more consisely that I did. This particular subject matter was of prime importance and not publicized. As for Theresa’s #9 post — if there is an accident, and a child hurt because he has “one cheek” on the seat — and school buses don’t have seat belts — how big a field day do you think one of these shark trial lawyers will have with that ? Now that the Board members have notice of this, they too will be eaten alive by the sharks. Getting back to the Strategic Plan, ALL decisions are supposed to be made in the BEST interests of the children. If its not safe, do you think its in the “best interests” of the children ?

  10. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I just spoke to the former Glenbrook student’s mother, who said he arrived at school exhausted because he has to essentially “squat” on one leg the whole way to school.
    Although the district’s School Closure Report states that three buses will transport students, the parent says only one bus has been coming in the morning:

  11. Just J Says:

    I have a question…..How many over paid lawyers does it take to get kids to school safe?

  12. Wait a minute Says:

    Just J @11,

    Thats a good one! I also wonder if any of them are smarter then the average bear?

  13. Theresa Harrington Says:

    The parent said the bus driver has also mentioned student concerns about safety to the district.

  14. Wait a minute Says:

    TH @10,

    Since the former Glenbrook community was promised 3 busses and the district is only providing 1 bus that is inherently unsafe due to overcrowding = another huge problem for the the MDUSD.

    I would urge those parents to file complaints with the Federal Office of Civil Rights as this really represents another violation of their civil rights.

    First their school was closed and now they are being forced to take an overcrowded and unsafe bus to their new school so the district can save money?

    What is the MDUSD going to spend this saved money on, another raise for Greg Rolen?

  15. Sue Berg Says:

    Theresa, Dr J, Wait A Minute,
    To reiterate: the CAC is a long-standing and interactive monthly forum for parents and district staff to address concerns and issues affecting students with special needs. The meetings are hardly held under the radar. The members can be quite outspoken. The MDUSD Board has two reps on the committee. (Dick Allen was one of the reps and a regular attender for much of his tenure, reporting on each CAC meeting at the subsequent Board meeting.)

    I hear the concerns you raise about transparency and communication in MDUSD these days. But the inference that there was any effort to keep people (and transportation problems) away from last night’s CAC meeting struck me as a reach.

  16. Doctor J Says:

    One cheek on the edge of the school bus seat violates Federal law and probably state law: “NHTSA recommends that all passengers be seated entirely within the confines of the school bus seats while the bus is in motion. Federal motor vehicle safety standard No. 222, “School Bus Passenger Seating and Crash Protection” requires that the interior of large buses provide occupant protection so that children are protected without the need to buckle-up. Occupant crash protection is provided by a protective envelope consisting of strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs. Persons not sitting or sitting partially outside of the school bus seats will not be afforded the occupant protection provided by the school bus seats.” Those concerned should contact the California Highway Patrol and National Transportation Safety Board for enforcement. Isn’t Google great ?

  17. Just J Says:

    They are not. Would love to see the Board and all admins including Rolan play a game of are you smarter than a 5th grader …..LOL that would be funny. Sorry trying to lighten the mood today.

    Back on topic…I am a special ed parent and I had no idea until this year that there was a committee that met. In all fairness I probably missed it in a news letter but I would think that they would make a better effort at really getting it out there to us.

  18. Doctor J Says:

    @Sue #15 — I am sorry our points are not more clear. Yes, the CAC is active. But the two year long transportation issues which are ongoing and clearly endangered special education children, should have been better publicized to all parents, not just the regular attenders. In fact, it might have had the fallout of increasing attendance at future meetins.

  19. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Sue, I don’t disagree that the meetings are well-known to those who regularly attend them.
    But, if the district would post agendas and minutes online, then those who don’t regularly attend them would have an opportunity to find out more about them.
    Unfortunately, since neither board rep attended the August CAC meeting, there was no report back to the board about it. Although Trustee Linda Mayo attended the August CAC meeting, I don’t believe she reported on it to the board.
    Also, since the board no longer webcasts its meetings and the minutes are posted weeks after board meetings, the public doesn’t find out about board reports until long after the CAC meetings are held.
    FYI, October is California School Bus Safety Awareness Month.

  20. g Says:

    I just did a deep search. It took a deep search to find the SPED CAC Calendar. It is on their Blog. However, looking at the Blog, all you see at first is that they have not had a Blog post in a couple of years, so seeing that anyone would do what I first did and just write it off as a defunct site. However, if you scroll down, on the right side they do keep their calendar up. Not very efficient to have it lost down there.

    The District posts PAC meetings on the main page, so why would it be so hard to post the CAC meetings on their calendar too???

    As for Glenbrook, they were promised 3 buses using two different pick-up times. Is the second time schedule being kept up with its own bus? Or are some kids standing there for over an hour to cram onto one bus?

    Someone with an ‘in’ to CPD should speak to someone and get a patrol car to stop them before they hit the road. A ticket and safety violation report would be nice to have on the record!

  21. g Says:

    Correcting myself. The link I had for the CAC Blog was out of date. This link is up to date.

  22. Just J Says:

    Thanks for the site G. I wonder if you actually have to go to the meetings to get help…..I have been waiting for assistive technology for 2 years now. Until the District actually does what they say or seeks out children with learning disabilities I think I will have to stay away. I can’t sit and listen to people who think they know what it best when they have no clue. Unfortunatly the district will keep having to reinburse for attorney fees, bussing, tutors etc. I don’t think that any of them really care. Get the kids what they need. Get the teachers what they need to teach! seems pretty easy but then again making arrangements for 3 busses seems easy. 3 does not = 1 and lets see how long we can get away with it.

  23. anon Says:

    @Theresa 8, 10 and 13,

    I’m confused about the role of the CC Times and you as a reporter. Of course it would be important to our community for you to be available to receive valuable news tips, but is the tip, without some level of investigative work, meaningful? Is the tip itself the news? People buy and read the paper and read your online blog because we aren’t investigative reporters and we do not have the time or the know how to go out and find all the news on our own.

    After you received the tip, did you do any investigative work to determine how many students travel on the bus and what the seating capacity of the bus is? Bus capacity is not a random number, just like plane seating capacity is not a random number. These buses are certified to lawfully carry a certain number of passengers. Is the district exceeding the certified seating capacity of the bus from Glenbrook? That would be news. If they are not, it is not news.

    You report that parents are paying $90/month to have their student ride of the bus. Is that an accurate number? You report that the district agreed that they would provide three buses. Would you expect three buses if there is only enough students for one bus?

    If you have done the investigative work necessary to ensure that the news you are providing is accurate, please report it. If you have not, please stop adding fuel to the fire. It is irresponsible.

  24. Doctor J Says:

    @anon #23 — Its not about total capacity — its about having children that can’t fit onto the seat without only having one cheek on the seat, and the rest of the body hanging in the aisle. One cheek on the edge of the school bus seat violates Federal law and probably state law: “NHTSA recommends that all passengers be seated entirely within the confines of the school bus seats while the bus is in motion. Federal motor vehicle safety standard No. 222, “School Bus Passenger Seating and Crash Protection” requires that the interior of large buses provide occupant protection so that children are protected without the need to buckle-up. Occupant crash protection is provided by a protective envelope consisting of strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs. Persons not sitting or sitting partially outside of the school bus seats will not be afforded the occupant protection provided by the school bus seats.” Anon, you want to distract from the main issue: the safety of the children. Shame on you.

  25. anon Says:

    @Dr J,

    And that is how seating capacity is derived. If there are few passengers on the bus than the bus is rated to carry, not news. If there are more passengers on the bus than the bus is rated to carry, it is news.

    None of that detracts from the fact that a legitimate news organization should do the necessary investigation and then report rather than the other way around. I don’t believe that there is anyone who would disagree with that.

  26. Doctor J Says:

    @Anon #25 — You missed the point — Safety of children is paramount, not head counts. You cannot have three children in a seat if one of them only can have “one cheek” on the outside of the seat. Federal and State law require all children to be seated within the confines of the seat “box” for safety since school buses don’t have seat belts. I almost get the impression that you are Gary or Greg. I guarantee you that the CHP and NTSB will take this matter much more seriously that you apparently do.

  27. Theresa Harrington Says:

    anon: Sometimes I post tips in the “comments” section while I am working on a story to see if other people have similar experiences — or even to see if other people may dispute the tip.
    If I find out later that something someone told me was not accurate, I will correct it.
    In this instance, the father told me he paid $90 per month for transportation. This morning, the mother told me it was $85 per semester. I will correct that in the previous post.
    I also spoke to Board President Gary Eberhart about the issue this morning, since he was at Glenbrook to see for himself how many students got onto the bus.
    He said he counted 65 and that the bus capacity is 85 based on three to a seat.
    However, some of the students are the size of adults. One boy told me that some students sit on their backpacks in the aisles rather than trying to hang off the edge of the seat, since they’re not allowed to stand.
    Even though the district is adhering to the stated bus capacity, students and parents are questioning whether that capacity rating makes sense and whether it is safe. That is news.

  28. Wait a minute Says:

    Does anyone know if it is legal for a district to charge its families for regular bus transportation to school?

  29. Wait a minute Says:


    Speaking of safety, how about an article on the dangerous conditions created by out-of-control students at Mount Diable H.S.?

    See here:

    Maybe MDHS should follow CVHS’s example and start the process of going charter so they can control their own destiny and safety?

  30. g Says:

    Gary, once again pushing “accurate” over honest. Since in his opinion there was plenty of room, I’m sure he rode the bus to test that capacity and safety. No? I didn’t think so. Eek, all those North side kids brushing up against him… eeew!

  31. Number Eight Says:

    I’m not a math whiz like Supt Lawrence, but let’s guesstimate the bus capacity based on the more realistic 2 middle school students with large backpacks per seat. Assuming a bench seat in the back, then this bus should have 14 rows (85 minus 1 divided by 6 students per row), and at 2 per seat or 4 per row then maximum capacity should be 57 (14 times 4 per row, plus 1). Double-check this against the bus capacity for high school field trips which MDUSD has maximum about 54. Gotta wonder who created the 85 figure. Anon #23 has some apologizing to do.

  32. Doctor J Says:

    Gary’s presence and statement suggest he was the poster about the capacity v. safety. Is the capacity based on elementary children or middle school or high school ? It can’t be the same for all sizes of children. Sitting in aisle on your backpack also violates the Federal and state requirements I quoted. The children must be in the seat “box” since there are no seat belts. Read the Federal requirements. I find it reassuring on one hand that Gary would be there to personally observe what is happening, but on the other hand it must mean he doesn’t trust Greg Rolen’s assessment of the issue. Just another reason why the Gang of Five raises were ill conceived and should be reversed. The bottom line: it doesn’t matter about the capacity, all the children on the bus must be in the seat “box” to be as safe as possible in a school bus without seat belts !!! Gary obviously wants to avoid the CHP stopping the buses, and avoid a complaint to the NTSB. Kudos to you Gary for wanting to avoid “busgate” added to your resume. Lets remember this new Strategic Plan: ALL decisions are to be made in the best interests of the children.

  33. Wait a minute Says:

    I question that a bus with no seatbelts crammed with 85 students is safe?

  34. Theresa Harrington Says:

    WAM: Gary Eberhart said he wants to add student behavior management to the strategic plan.
    g: Eberhart did not board the bus. He stood beside his truck in the parking lot and watched students board the bus from a distance.
    He said that based on the number of students he counted, the bus was about 25 percent under capacity.
    If the district added another bus, Eberhart said it would have to pass the additional costs on to the parents.

  35. Theresa Harrington Says:

    Parent Advisory Committee to discuss bullying, school climate, foster youth, homeless students, the district’s budget, and homework tonight at 7 p.m.:

  36. Doctor J Says:

    @th#34 An alternative to passing the costs to the parents would be to cut out the Board benefits — why didn’t Gary think of that ?

  37. g Says:

    EDCODE: 39834. (a) Except as provided in subdivision (b), any officer,
    agent, or employee of a school district, office of the county
    superintendent of schools, or joint powers agency, or any other
    person, knowingly operating, or permitting or directing the operation
    of a schoolbus, when it is loaded with schoolchildren in excess of
    the limits of its seating capacity, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

    (b) says: may exceed capacity only in: emergency, natural disaster, hazard.

    —–Question: What is the width of a school bus bench seat? Is it at least 45 inches?

    I could not find a specific law regarding how many students constitutes maximum seating (per seat). However, in calculating for seat load capacity and new seat belt regulations for schoolbuses, NHTSA describes minimum seat size requirements. They provided information for two classifications.

    To sit three across, using a “flex” seat arrangement, the minimum width would be 13 inches per, and that would seat two 12 yr old girls plus one 10 yr old girl in the middle position, but could conceivably fit three 12 yr old girls of MAXIMUM “5th percentile” in size.

    they describe a 5th percentile female:
    average age 12.0
    Weight 108.0
    Stature (in.) 59.1
    Sitting Height (in) 31.0

    Fixed bench (no flex) should be minimum of 15 inches per seat.

    For comparison a 5th percentile male is:
    age-not specified
    weight 140.0
    Stature (in) 64.0
    Sitting Height (in) 34.8

  38. Doctor J Says:

    @g Every bus mfg will have a different capacity becuase they are all built to different specs, just like cars. Schools buses have to have “compartmentalization” which I described as a “seat box” and the child has be to seated within that compartment or else the safety features of the seat, in lieu of seatbelts, won’t work. Its described in NHTSB reg 222. So there will be a gross capacity, but with larger children, you can’t even get close to capacity and still have them im the “compartment”. So the first thing to determine is the bus mfg and model. The bus mfg probably determines the capacity. It may even have max capacities based on age.

  39. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I believe the bus is manufactured by Bluebird.
    After the Parent Advisory Committee meeting, I asked Trustee Linda Mayo about the bus issue.
    She said that the conditions on the bus should be observed and that standards and laws should be consulted. She said district staff is working on evaluating the issue.

  40. Doctor J Says:

    Are the students videotaped while on the bus ? If so, it should be easy to determine when the buses are overcrowded and when they are not. Its nice to know our overseer of transportation, aka the General Counsel, is actually looking up the laws, and I hope he has someone who can do the math on Rule 222 of NHTSB to determine the capacities as G in post 37 laid out for the various age groups.

  41. Doctor J Says:

    I wonder what the CHP does when it pulls over a school bus with children sitting in the aisle or only having room for one cheek on the seat ? Is that excess capacity ? Its my understanding that every county has a CHP officer assigned specifically for school bus enforcement. I just can’t imagine that the CHP is very lenient about that as I think they are highly professional. Wouldn’t you have thought that with the District Lawyer being paid an additional $27,000 to oversee transportation, that he would have researched all of this out a year ago before the district pulled the plug on the county transportation company and started up its own transportation company again ?? I wonder why that didn’t happen or did it? Well, I guess according to G operating a school bus in excess of its capacity is a crime of misdemeanor for a lot of people in the district, not just the driver — and not just an infraction ticket like speeding. Can you imagine mugshots of the entire Board? I wonder if they will look like Mr. Nugent’s mugshot ? How will that fingerprint ink look ?Maybe they need a special meeting to address the issue this week ? That theme song of “Cops” just keeps coming to mind — What you going to do when they come for you, bad boy, bad boy. Should be an interesting week. Never a dull moment in the MDUSD.

  42. Number Eight Says:

    Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Safety is paramount importance, but Gary’s proposed solution is charging families more for transportation. Transportation and costs to families should’ve been decided before closing Glenbrook!

    The board resolution said families would pay $170 per year with a one-year grant. How much will they pay next year if the grant is not available. MDUSD closed Glenbrook to save how much money, and lost how much SIG grant money, and now charges families how much money for transportation. Do they math and it’s a big MINUS for families!

    Closing Holbrook and Glenbrook was the biggest mistake. Change the district motto: “Where Kids Come Last”

  43. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I received a message from the student’s mother last night saying a district rep had called and assured the family there would be two buses this morning.
    About a half-hour ago, she called again. There was no second bus and there were more students than yesterday because of the rain.
    She said the bus driver told students not to sit in the aisles, so the kids were trying to squeeze on the seats and they were slipping and sliding because their shoes were wet.
    She said the district had initially intended to send a second bus. But, the students riding the second bus would have been late to school. So, the district decided not to send another bus after all.
    “So, they decided it was better to get to school on time and be unsafe than to send another bus,” she said.

  44. Wait a minute Says:

    In the real world, Greg Rolen would be fired over all of this.

    Its obvious that the MDUSD is not operating as if its part of the real world.

  45. Just J Says:

    It is not part of the real world. If anyone out there has the contact info on who to call to start making complaints at the state and federal level I will start calling. If I do this we will all have to band together and find a way to make this happen.

    This whole situation makes me sick to my stomach!

  46. g Says:

    “So, they decided it was better to get to school on time and be unsafe than to send another bus.” Yep. ADA (Almighty Dollar Act) is far more important than safety!

    Mayo, I’ll address this to you, because I know Gary couldn’t figure it out using his and your toes. Bus Maximum Student Capacity can’t be measured in just number of “possible” seats. So, while you’re “observing,” “consulting laws” and “evaluating” what should have been a known science for the last 50 years of District busing, maybe you can get one of the 6th graders sitting in the aisle to help you with this:
    You can put 12.45 ounces of sand in a stantard measuring cup, and you will have a cup that is full. Now try it with 12.45 ounces of water…–get it?

  47. Doctor J Says:

    @TH#43 — On time and unsafe. How ironic. There are slick roads out there. If there is a time to be safe, its when the roads are slick. Who at the district is calling these shots ?

  48. MDUSD Board Watcher Says:

    Whoever made this impossibly dumb decision should be fired immediately.

    Unfortunately the guy calling the shots (Lawrence) must have some really good dirt on all the board members except for Hansen. They all behave like good little lap dogs.

  49. Theresa Harrington Says:

    I just called Mildred Browne’s office and learned that there was no written report with the transportation update at the CAC meeting. The minutes won’t be available until next month.

  50. g Says:

    You know, even if Angie Goakey walked in there and gave her presentation from notes she jotted on the back of an envelope, that envelope has to be made part of the public record, and should be copied and distributed. The lackadaisical attitude of upper management, and its almost total disregard of the law is mind boggling!

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