Walker Decides to Step Down from Board of Education, Board Talks Bus Routes

Julia Walker
The Westfield School District offices are decorated with student art. Credits: Ed Kensik
The Westfield School District offices are decorated with student art. Credits: Ed Kensik

WESTFIELD, NJ - The Westfield school board president announced her resignation at the board of education meeting Tuesday night.

Julia Walker said she will be leaving the board at the end of November. Her last meeting will be Nov. 22.  Walker will have completed 8 1/2 years on the school board.

The school board and the district will collect resumes for the position that will be good until the next school board election in April 2012.

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Walker said that she had recently increased her work from part-time to full-time and that she could not continue on the board because of the work load.

"It has been an honor and privilege working on this board," said Walker, holding back tears. "Honestly, this school district and board of education is capable of running well."

Superintendent Margaret Dolan lauded Walker for her extensive work for the district. "We thank you for so many years of wonderful service and countless hours," said Dolan.

In other business, board members discussed whether to put one of its routes, E-7, out for bid. The Westfield school district does not own the buses but sends out the routes for bidding by private companies, and the district has received several complaints about one of the companies, Vogel Bus Company of Roselle.

Parents, led by Giulietta Albano, have complained several times this year about the bus service and pointed out that the drivers had made 15 errors in the first 36 days of the school year that included missing bus stops, dropping students at the wrong stops and very long bus rides on the route to and from Edison Intermediate School.

"Busing is their business and they don't seem to be doing their business well," said Albano, who backed getting another school company for the E-7 route. "They've been given too many chances."

Vincent Yaniro, the district's interim administrator and board secretary, is investigating the complaints, and reported that one of the driver's had been replaced.

"We've been monitoring it and had particular trouble with one of the drivers who had missed a couple of turns and he's been replaced," said Yaniro.

But some of the parents had said that the driver that Yaniro reported had been replaced was still driving one of the buses. Yaniro said that they would investigate if the driver was still operating the bus.

Vogel Bus Company operates 20 of the 21 in-district bus routes. Including sending districts out of district there are 68 routes with 679 students using buses, Yaniro said.

Also at the meeting, Dolan lauded the work done by the school district staff to get the schools ready for Monday after the snow storm that shuttered several neighborhood schools adjacent to Westfield.

"I want to thank everybody for their cooperation and I'm hoping that we will have calmer weather ahead," said Dolan. "There are still residents, including some at this table, that are without power. We were able to open and we stressed safety as the most important concern. The parents were certainly cooperative as well as the students and staff."

Dolan said the maintenance crew came in on Sunday and discarded all of the branches scattered around the school district grounds. She added that all of the school's power except for Franklin School had been up by Sunday afternoon. Dolan said that the district kept in touch with Franklin parents about the possibility of no school on Monday, but the power had been up by Sunday night at Franklin.

Board members applauded the success of the Westfield High School athletic programs that have been part of almost all of the Union County finals in the fall sports, including the Lady Blue Devils girls varsity soccer team, which will take on Scotch Plains High School on Nov. 5 at Kean University. The high school had plenty of success in girls tennis, gymnastics, boys and girls cross country along with junior varsity field hockey.

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