City to sue education board over bus contract

The city’s Board of Aldermen have taken the Board of Education to court for allegedly violating the city charter while negotiating, and ultimately signing a contract with a school transportation company out of Durham.

Shelton’s recent contract with Durham came to pass when the city allegedly failed to give Board of Education members a written proposal for transportation. In order to meet state statutes, the school board decided to secure transportation services from Durham.

“We’ve never received any written document that was even framework for a plan, let alone a plan for transportation,” said Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet. “Durham bus company said they received word from the city’s lawyer that the contract with the Shelton Public schools would be null and void. We believe that that’s not the case and we’re going to proceed with our legal contract with them.”

Despite this process going to court, Board of Aldermen President John Anglace said he’s hopeful that the two city boards will be able to resolve this issue. Anglace added that the board of aldermen received word from the corporation counsel that the board of ed had violated the city’s set bidding procedures in the charter.

Clouet said there is a clause within the contract that would allow either party to exit the contract within 90 days from the day it was signed.

“If we did that then early in the school year we’d end up having to end a contract with one company and then switch over to a new company with no experience,” said Dr. Clouet. “I don’t see that as being good for the kids.

Anglace said during his nearly three decades on the Board of Aldermen, he’s never seen a school board operate as the board has in 2018.

“I think what the board of education's attorney told city counsel is that they don’t have to follow the charter, they drive their authority from state statutes, but that’s never been the case for the 26 years I’ve been on the Board of Aldermen…,” said Anglace. “We’re still ready, willing and able to work with the Board of Education so we can save them the money.”

The city’s proposal to resolve this transportation issue with the board of ed is to lease the buses to Durham for one year for $1, giving Board of Aldermen time to put a city-owned operation into place.

Mayor Mark Lauretti said there’s currently 17 other municipalities that currently operate their own district’s school transportation as the city has proposed to the board of ed. Lauretti said the option he and the Board of Aldermen proposed was the best and most cost efficient option for the board of ed.

“It’s not complicated at all when you’re going to duplicate the system that was already in place for five years and you have the same personnel that you’ve had for the past five years,” said Lauretti. “This boils down to making excuses for a bad decision.”

Dr. Clouet said he’s always open to talking with the city, but said it’s time for the city to realize that just because they have an idea, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

After doing research of his own, Clouet said he was unable to find another Connecticut municipality that actually controls its school transportation. He also said he’s sure the Board of Ed awarded Durham the bus contract within the city charter guidelines.

“Show us the list of 17 schools because I can’t find any. They have named Goshen as one of the municipalities that operates its own school transportation, but of course I called them and what turned out to be the case was perhaps lack of understanding for what their words meant. Goshen is a school district that runs its own transportation which is much different than the city running the transportation.”

A hearing on the injunction was set in Milford Superior Court for July 5. Summer school in Shelton is scheduled to begin Monday, July 9.