ROXBURY, NJ – Eleven Roxbury school bus drivers will not have jobs in September if the school board goes along with a plan by schools superintendent Loretta Radulic.
The superintendent this week warned 11 employees of the district’s transportation department that she will ask the school board to terminate their employment, a move that seems to confirm fears expressed at a recent board meeting by bus drivers and their supporters.
In the “RIF” (reduction in force) letters, Radulic said she will recommend the staff paring during a closed session of the board May 16. “At that time, due to reasons of economy and declining enrollment, I will make a recommendation to the Board of Education that you not be rehired for the 2016/2017 school year,” wrote Radulic.
She noted the targeted employees have the right to request that the meeting be open to the public. "We wish you well in all your future endeavors," she added.
Radulic did not immediately today return an email and phone message seeking comment on the matter.
At the school board’s last meeting, the superintendent acknowledged changes were being considered for the transportation department, including possible downsizing. But Radulic told those in attendance that she anticipated only about four drivers would lose their jobs and this would take place through retirements, not terminations.
The RIF letter dissemination was confirmed Wednesday by the drivers’ Teamster’s Union shop stewards, Sally Rackowski, Wendy Oakes and Robert Katz. “We, the shop stewards, sat in with these drivers today as they received them from Maryann Gibbs, head of HR, and Pam Nicholais, director of transportation,” said Rackowski in an email. “A few drivers have not received them yet, as they were unable to attend the time assigned to them.”
At the May 3 meeting, Radulic said the downsizing is needed because some buses are carrying too few students. Many attending the meeting questioned the proposed changes, suggesting it will result in overly-long bus rides and crowded conditions for some students.
Roxbury parent Lisa McCarthy, an outspoken opponent of the driver downsizing, sent a letter of complaint to Radulic on Wednesday. In it, she pointed to widely publicized problems that faced the West Orange school district, where Nicolais formerly worked, due to busing changes Nicolais spearheaded there before coming to Roxbury.
“I ask you to slow down,” McCarthy wrote. “I understand improvements can be made and need to be made. It seems that this is happening too quickly without any real research … I want to understand why these changes are being made. I need to understand why you said sometimes Roxbury doesn't have enough drivers yet we will lay off.”
The school district recently published a statement on its website alerting the community that changes were in the works for the transportation department. “Routes for school year 2016-2017 are being reevaluated,” it said. “Most will be changing for (sic) next school year to be more efficient, cost effect, (sic) and better timing (sic) … We are committed to providing a safe an (sic) efficient transportation program. Safety is the combined effort of parents, students, and district personnel.”