Op-Ed: Shelton alderman calls criticism of bus service unfair, undeserved

I read and agree with the writer in last week’s editorial that the Shelton Student Transportation Services (SSTS) drivers, managers and staff have worked diligently to provide prompt, coordinated and timely service to our students.

The recent short comings and criticisms of the SSTS are, however, not fair nor deserved. His perception of mismanagement is completely off the charts and he should be careful to make such allegations without looking seriously at all the moving parts of the SSTS and Shelton public school system as they have had to plan and re-plan through the last almost year of angst and upheaval from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

There are many school bus services with similar problems. I am privy to at least nine school districts in the surrounding areas having similar problems with servicing the students in their districts. Some private companies and some city/town owned.

At the school in which I substitute teach there is an overhead announcement almost daily which changes a bus schedule, time of arrival, departure, or bus change/switch. The problem of bus transportation is universal in the world we live in today.

The writer also has to my knowledge never been responsible or has any experience managing a company. That may have clouded his insight into the problems and difficulties of running any business during normal times but with a pandemic monkey on the back of the SSTS administrators and other companies the difficulties have grown exponential.

The pandemic has brought some businesses to their knees and literally buried others which will never return. Education in Shelton has fortunately and thankfully, with sage guidance from its BoE and administrators, gone forward cautiously to assure and secure the health and welfare of staff and students. School transportation has had to work around schools schedules which had been sporadically opened and closed which what had in the past been only for weather related problems. Hopefully with more and more persons becoming vaccinated and spring weather around the corner a more regular school schedule will become the norm.

I am also sympathetic and understanding to the school administrators who are trying to preserve safe in-school learning for as many students as possible. The complications of all of the above bring human resource problems onto all transportation service providers like the SSTS. The key to the SSTS, like any other school system transport program, is having drivers ready, willing, able and available everyday. For some drivers school transport work was their only way to a paycheck and when that dried up they were forced to move on to more steady work elsewhere, for others they were compromised due to age or preexisting health issues making retaining and finding drivers extremely difficult, along with certifying and training new recruits. All of the above compounding student transportation. Not excuses, but the reality of the situation.

The point I want to be very clear to make is that managing a business like the SSTS, a nursing home, retail store, airline, or a restaurant requires people and when they are not available it is impossible to provide the service that is as perfect as it is intended to be.

I would like to take this moment to compliment the Shelton school system, its administration, BoE, teachers and all other Shelton school staff for being diligent about getting their first COVID vaccine shots this weekend. The coordination of the SPSS with the Naugatuck Valley Health Department, Griffin Healthcare, nurses, Echo Hose Ambulance and many others hit a home run by vaccinating more than 600 of Shelton's educational employees in one day. Superintendent Ken Saranich was quick and correct in pointing out how this is and example of the community coming together for the greater good.