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Busing Issues Leave Dearborn Students in the Cold, Parents in the Dark

A combination of frigid temperatures and inadequate staffing led to some Dearborn students waiting for the bus "longer than they should have been," the district confirmed Tuesday.

Dearborn Public Schools Superintendent Brian Whiston issued an apology to parents Tuesday after transportation issues led to a late start and some students waiting for a bus for more than an hour in single-digit temperatures.

According to the district, a series of issues Tuesday morning resulted in a shortage of buses, as well as a delayed explanation to parents.

First, the near-zero temperature meant a rough start for some of the buses.

"We’ve got a process in place for getting them going and getting them started (in cold weather)," explained district spokesman David Mustonen. "We had a few buses that weren’t starting like they should have."

Compounding the issue is the fact that the district's transportation department is short staffed, and that there were a "high number of absences today across the district," Mustonen added.

The shortage of buses meant that some drivers had to double up their routes, meaning that some students were left standing at their bus stop in below-freezing temperatues for more than an hour, according to some parents.

Mustonen confirmed that, saying that he "would not doubt that there were kids at bus stops longer than they should have been."

Lastly, a robocall to parents notifying them of the issue did not go out until around 9 a.m., which the district said was due to a breakdown in communication. Dearborn high schools start at 7:20 a.m.; middle schools at 8 a.m.; and elementary schools at 8:40 a.m.

It's not clear how many students were affected, though according to Mustonen, less than 3,000 of the district's 19,100 students are bused.

"How many were impacted? I don’t know," he said. "But the fact is, even one student is too many."

Some parents pointed to the issue as evidence that the district should have canceled school entirely due to the weather—with temperatures as low as 3 degrees, and below-zero wind chill.

Dearborn Patch reader Fay Saad commented on Facebook that the district should have just added a day to the school year in June "to make up for a day that is dangerously cold for any child to be out for long periods of time."

Mustonen assured that the issue would not be repeated, and that the district does not normally close due to cold weather, but instead has procedures in place to give the transportation team time to start and warm up the buses.

Less than 100 Michigan schools or districts did close on Tuesday, due to the cold—including two Dearborn charter schools. Most public school districts, however, did not close.

An apology letter regarding the issues was released by Superintendent Brian Whiston Tuesday afternoon. Here's the letter in full:

Dear Parents/Guardians:

I want to apologize to all the parents and students who had a rough start to the school day today because of the problems we encountered with transportation.

We were prepared to deal with the cold weather; however..., we were not prepared to deal with several compounded problems that occurred along with the cold weather. Nonetheless, no excuse is acceptable. When the problems occurred we should have communicated better with all of our parents so that they could have made appropriate plans.

I apologize for the breakdown in communications and we will be making sure that never happens again.

Dearborn has a long history and outstanding track record of efficiently operating our district and communicating with parents when major issues develop. Today was an unfortunate event and I am sorry for the way it impacted some of our parents and students.

All of us who work for the Dearborn Public Schools are dedicated to serving our customers, the students and parents in our district and I am disappointed that today we did not live up to our high standards.

Sincerely,

Brian Whiston

marooned in Dbn January 23, 2013 at 02:56 AM
Congratulations to the constantly duped Dbn. taxpayers, your tax dollars hard at work. Also I take exception to the characterizing of our children by Brian Whiston as "customers". They are NOT your "customers" Mr. Whiston, they are your "charges" or "wards". This corporate mentality must cease.
Hass T January 23, 2013 at 10:24 AM
I was one of those students, it was freezing out. We were all shivering and i got sick from all that cold. Then i walked home and had to call the school four times until they finally came. Then they finally came an hour late and we missed our first hour. And its FINALS week!!!
POWDERBURNER January 23, 2013 at 06:22 PM
So, if it wasn't for the liber ideal of bussing for integration and gittin' along, your spawn would be walking to the nearest school like we used to, our taxes would be less, and they would have felt a little warmer while engaging in some physical excercise that they seem to thrive on.
Murphy lee January 23, 2013 at 07:17 PM
It was more than a few busses, try at least 25-30. One mechanic jumping busses. The bus fleet is aging, they are not going to start after sitting 3 days. I knew it was going to be freezing, my kid was not standing at the bus stop, . Regardless of if busses were running on time. I know children have to get to school, but the fact is, we are the parents, we make the decisions, we knew it was freezing and the kids come first. You make sure that they get on the bus and they get there safely. Anyone who sent their small child to wait at a bus stop yesterday morning should be ashamed. High school and middle school can walk back home. If I have to take a sick day or find a sitter, that is my job as a responsible parent. This is life people, things happen. Step up and take the necessary precautions. Yes, this should not have happened, yes, they should have called school, they understand that you have jobs but they failed and if you let your kids sit at a bus stop and put their health and safety in jeopardy then up I have failed also.
Murphy lee January 23, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Sorry, the last few words should read... then you have failed also. Sorry, I have a band aid on and the iPad does not recognize that. And, yes, I do work as does my husband but we make sure our kids come first and we make sure they have a place to go if they cannot attend school for any reason. It's called being a parent.
Pam January 23, 2013 at 08:28 PM
I wasn't aware Dearborn used busing for integration. What schools in this city are doing so?
AbuHak January 24, 2013 at 05:59 AM
People need to show up at the School Board meeting and tell the board and administration that they are accountable and have a job to do. Not being proactive in dealing this situation before it escalated demonstrates a failure on their behalf. Dearborn Public Schools will probably need to hire a consulting team and an additional assistant administrator to the administrator in charge of transportation to figure out what went wrong. Wasting more money.
Murphy lee January 24, 2013 at 10:05 AM
They have an administrator and an assistant in transportation. What went wrong is the super, Whinston, who rarely calls school for any reason, did not see calling OR a delay. Busses simply did not start, they sat for three days, one mechanic on duty. Another person, a dispatcher was out helping jump busses. People need to be accountable for their children, can you even imagine, someone having to actually care for their child, make their own decision, to either keep them home or drive them themselves. We all have jobs to do, it was Whinstons job to make that call on Tuesday, plain and simple. Truth is even if the busses would have all started, every last one of them, there still should not have been school. Whinston should know by now that a lot of people lack common sense. Now he has no excuse, he knows.
Concerned Parent January 27, 2013 at 12:27 PM
Murphy Lee- I hate to disagree with you. It was not Whiston's Job to call school off. It was cold. That is NOT a reason to close school or delay school. It is NOT Whiston's Job to make decisions for parents. That actually is what is wrong with schools today. We have people who use no common sense or are simple not bright enough to have children having kids and the schools and laws are passed that take parents decision rights away from them! Some will say that is harsh but it is the truth! Some people should NOT be allowed to have kids. As far as the buses go many parents are not going to like what I have to say. As parents IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY to get your kids to school. IF that means you drive them, set up a group that walks together, or a family member or friend drives them to ensure they are their safely! We live in Dearborn and in my opinion there should be NO BUSES! Parents should be responsible for getting their children to and from school! They have Kids club where you can drop your child off at 7 am and they have after school care where you can pick them up at 5 or 5:30 pm. The school district alone could save a LARGE amount of money by eliminating the busing of students to and from schools. We are talking about 1 million + dollars that could be used towards educating the children and not transportation! Parents are Ultimately Responsibility not Whiston or the school! He can not cancel school because some parents are Stupid!
Concerned Parent January 27, 2013 at 12:29 PM
Pam- He is talking about the integration as it pertains to Dearborn Heights kids being bused into Dearborn to attend Dearborn Schools. I actually Disagree with Dearborn Heights students attending Dearborn schools. But that is my opinion. That is why the district lines are so screwed up on what area attends which schools.
Concerned Parent January 27, 2013 at 01:12 PM
Let's also discuss that the district would not feel the need to do the busing if we did not have sections of Dearborn Heights attending Dearborn schools. Our school boundary maps are ridiculously crazy! Ultimately NO MATTER what happens in schools the Parents are Responsible for our children's Welfare!!!! The school is only responsible from the time the child steps foot in the school til they go home. If you want to get upset at Whiston lets discuss the real reasons to be upset with him. His poor decision making when he eliminated pay to play and spent more money for children to play sports over their education when the district as a whole is not making AYP. Let me break that down. In the 2012 budget 89.4% of the budget was spent on Salaries, Benefits, Debt Retirement, and Athletics. The district spent almost 2 Million dollars on Athletics! That is a lot of money to spend on something that is not raising a students test scores. Let's talk about one schools tiny little budget for providing supplies, workbooks, and copy paper for the teachers to make copies of work for their students to do. One school only got 26000 to provide all of that and half or more then half that money was gone before Christmas break. The school has over 300 students in it. So even at 300 students that is only ~ $87 per student to provide the supplies required by state law, workbooks, and copy paper. And remember that 87 dollars if for 300 students and there is more then that in the school.
Concerned Parent January 27, 2013 at 01:24 PM
Let's discuss how there is no money to make our schools safer by putting in intercom systems or guards into the school or other safety items. At my school if some crazy person got in the school they could hit all the classrooms in the school or elude detection without ever having to pass in front of the office. Instead the Superintendent's message to the schools were if you can come up with the money then you can do whatever safety item you want to do. It was not the district is looking at helping the schools to beef up security or we are looking into having a guard at the school and so forth. Let me also give you a little piece of information that most parents do not know about Mr. Whiston. The district is very into the Anti- Bullying message to the students and pushes it very hard but our very own Superintendent instead of talking nicely to the Teachers put out a message that said, "Achieve or Leave." I have heard that the message to the Principles were put even more blunt and threatening. Then let's add in that the district has new report cards and a whole new curriculum this year. The district has not GIVEN any real meaningful information to help the Teachers understand the curriculum. Instead they have to figure it all out on their own while the Superintendent is Bullying the teachers with his message to them at the beginning of the year. IT is the Districts Responsibility to give the teachers the tools to educate not the Teachers Responsibility to get them.
AbuHak January 27, 2013 at 03:35 PM
It was Administrations responsibility to be proactive in this situation. They are aware the buses are old and will have difficulty starting, so when they heard the weather report for the next day, why not call in a few people early to get the buses started??? Whiston and his cronies for the most part are textbook administrators and have no foresight. They operate in a reactionary mode and then are quick to talk about implementing policies or procedures that do not really exist (school security, cheating, bullying). Whiston is fortunate that he has a clueless Board of Education that rubber stamps his every desire.
AbuHak January 27, 2013 at 03:48 PM
Totally agree with you on the Bullying at DPS. It is difficult to believe the district's "Anti-Bullying" message when the Superintendent and his Cronies are the biggest bullies in the district. Many teachers have told me discipline incidents now go unreported by schools in order to keep those numbers down in order to appear to be making progress in those areas to upper administration. Additionally, they are not to fail students, so the graduation rate will increase which will also show school progress to those at Ten Eycke. This is due to the directives (bullying) issued by Whiston to the principals at every school.
Concerned Parent January 27, 2013 at 04:16 PM
AbuHak- You are very correct in the fact that discipline incidents go unreported due to the schools wanting to keep those numbers down. What also needs to be addressed is the fact that the Administration is over paid and over staffed! But then again that is my personal opinion. Another issue I have is that NOTHING is done the same across the district! Every Principle can set up and run the school the way they see fit. That goes with how they assign all of the special staff that are in the schools. The teachers do not all assess the same way either. With the new report cards a teacher can just put a 3 at the elementary level saying the student is progressing as long as at the end the students have mastered. I can see this as an issue if they are assessing each marking period as if it were for the whole school year instead of what the student should have learned up to that point. Lets also not forget the horrible math that they teach that is not helping students. My child can not even set up a basic math problem. Instead they have my child drawing pictures to work out a story problem when it is much easier and more efficient and less likely for the student to make a mistake to get the problem wrong if they just wrote for example 25 + 30 and then added. I would personally like to see the Administration CUT and districts share admin services while the Teachers GET 100% Curriculum Decision Control in the city limits of each city!
Concerned Parent January 27, 2013 at 04:29 PM
AbuHak- My whole point is that we live in the city and I Personally do not Think it is the Districts Responsibility to get the students to and from school. I do not believe that Dearborn should be busing ANY students to and from school. It is also the PARENTS responsibility to ensure that if their child who does ride a bus is not waiting outside and if the bus is late they should TAKE THEIR CHILD to school so that the child is not out waiting. My response was to another poster that though that school should have been cancelled. Also, As for calling in more people that costs more money that this district does not have. Since they give the Teachers Retirement benefits to EVERY SINGLE EMPLOYEE! If the District does not do something in the near future to Eliminate that all employee's are under the same Retirement of I think this year is 28% of Salary paid to the Retirement fund the district is going to be even more broke and less money will go into the classrooms. That % goes up pretty much every year. Next year I think it is estimated that about 30 or so % of the salary has to be paid to the Retirement Fund for these employees. Lets also address that the schools has a so called "engineer" in the school who can not even stop a drinking fountain from running when they are notified. And who are paid in the range of about 30 bucks an hour without benefits. Custodians who just clean the schools are making between 18 and 22 dollars an hour w/o benefits.
Melinda reeber January 28, 2013 at 12:13 AM
Come on Dearborn there is absolutely NO excuse you can fabricate regarding your lack of attention to this busing matter. I don't want to hear about your aging fleet of buses. What is this Detroit? Get with the program Dearborn and DON'T put blame on ONe teacher or the teacher contract to do it! Step up Brian these are not customers you dufasss !
Cloudy With A Chance of Mayhem January 28, 2013 at 12:45 AM
I read an article about this in the Detroit Free News the other day. It reported that no precious little bundles got frostbite, none of them froze to death and the sky didn't fall down the next day. Some of the Nattering Nabobs of Negativity around here should get over themselves. Their agendas are showing.
Pam January 28, 2013 at 01:42 PM
Concerned Parent, when I attended Fordson MANY years ago Dearborn Heights schools from the old Fairlane district were bused there. So this is not new.
Concerned Parent January 28, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Pam it might not be new but in my opinion NO ONE from DH should be attending Dearborn Schools and NO student should be bused. Parents should be responsible to get their child to and from school. If that is walking then the student walks and if the parents do not want them to walk then they drive or make other arrangements for someone else to drive them.
cmg January 28, 2013 at 09:26 PM
I would have bet a million dollars schools would have been closed today to make up for last week. What a waste of a day. Yes they only had a half day but still, last week they had to freeze and today they were closed for nothing. Well actually he closes the schools after all the other districts do so he doesn't look wrong. But he's always wrong. As far as DH being bussed into Dearborn schools I have two issues with that. One if you want to go to Drbn schools then move to Drbn and two our schools are WAY too overcrowded to be taking in kids from other districts. At no time should an elementary class have 30 students in it. That's beyond ridiculous. As for your kids having to wait for the bus if they are bussed ask yourself this question....do you work? if not then get up and drive your kids to school, why are they even taking a bus?? I work and I take my kids to school and I left to pick them up because it was too cold to walk.
Brenda Jean Albers Fiedler February 01, 2013 at 09:52 AM
15 below windchill !!! Yes it is a reason to call school off!!
Brenda Jean Albers Fiedler February 01, 2013 at 09:55 AM
Freezing cold kills germs! We need the cold!
Brenda Jean Albers Fiedler February 01, 2013 at 10:01 AM
Then call Mr. Whiston he should have called school off! 15 below windchill is a NO brainer! It had NOTHING to do with the bus drivers! Don't forget we were out there in the cold trying to get the buses started or waiting in those frozen tin boxes while they worked on them. There is not one driver that doesn't love our bus kids and we ALL were hurting for you all!!
Brenda Jean Albers Fiedler February 01, 2013 at 10:04 AM
I know we all walked 5 miles to school over hills, rain, sleet, cold, freeze. This is 2013. There are not enough schools with in walking distance for most of Dearborns students. Sad but true. Brenda
AbuHak February 02, 2013 at 04:48 PM
Let's see if DPS has learned anything for this fiasco and have the buses running on time 2/04/13 after a cold weekend.

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