Millington council weighs in on school bus woes
— Council members here expressed their dissatisfaction and frustration with the Kent County Board of Education and ongoing issues with school transportation during a meeting Tuesday.
Since classes began last week, there have been numerous complaints from parents about buses — contracted through Reliable Transportation of Baltimore — being late, taking the wrong route, drivers being disrespectful and unsafe behavior.
The issues were discussed at a school board meeting Monday, which featured a police presence and people airing their grievances to officials.
“I still have a headache from it” Councilman Wayne Starkey, who attended the school board meeting, told the council. “The citizens of not only our community, but the entire county pulled together last night and I’m proud of that.”
He said the school board members, Superintendent Karen Couch or Reliable Chief Operating Officer Timothy Dixon — who Star- key referred to as “the colored gentleman” — did not seem to answer any of the public’s questions.
“The school board said ... to stay positive, whatever that means,” Starkey said. “I don’t believe them on a personal level.”
Councilman Kevin Hemstock said he watched the meeting via live stream. He said to him, the school board seemed “defensive” and at times “arrogant,” especially Couch.
“This is a safety issue,” Hemstock said. “This is a safety issue for children and I’m not sure they are taking this seriously. ... I’m concerned there’ll be an accident.”
Starkey, who has a fiveyear-old son attending Galena Elementary School, said he has been following the school bus on its route.
He said has video records of incidents — like speeding and failure to use the buses’ red and yellow safety lights — and that his son has been dropped off at his stop later than scheduled several times.
“I’ve missed about four and a half days of work. ... On the second day of school, my fiveyear-old begged and cried not to be on that bus,” Starkey said. “The only reason he stopped crying was because I told him I’d follow him to school.”
He said he has heard similar concerns from other parents and that he would like to see the council help the citizens if possible. He said he has noticed temporary school bus-shaped signs on telephone poles around town, to signify stops.
He and Hemstock discussed possible options, such as alerting the Kent County Sherrif’s Office when needed.
“One thing I found out was that we are stuck with Reliable for the next four years,” Starkey said. “So unfortunately, we’ll have to see how this plays out. But we came fullforce as a county to the table.”
Hemstock said he blames Couch and the school board members for “rubber-stamping” the contract with Reliable. He questioned the need for it to “take the same time as consolidation” and that they did not need to approve Reliable’s contract.
“Every one of those members voted for this contract,” Hemstock said. “The bottom line is, our children need to be safe. I’ve heard complaints about people bad-mouthing bus drivers and complaints about the chatter last night. You know what, they deserve it.” A former editor of the
Hemstock said he has never seen this “insensitivity of a government agency when it comes to kids” in his career as a journalist.
“People are very concerned,” he said. “This is a very callous operation.”
Council members Michelle Holland and Eli Manning did not contribute to the conversation. Mayor C.J. Morales did not attend the meeting.
Also at the meeting, plan- ning commission candidates Patty Santiago and Rahul Dutta, owner of Tailgate Market, appeared before the commission. Since Starkey was elected to the town council, his seat on the commission is vacant.
After a brief debate, the council chose to write down their votes on a piece of paper — while still in an open session — and hand them to Manning to review. The results ended in a 2-2 tie.
The council decided to wait until Morales could attend and will revote at the October meeting.
The council continued a work session on updating the town charter. They decided to make several revisions and amend language in Article 5, which involves town elections.
Several changes including having a sentence state a town council member cannot hold another “public government office” and revising the title of town clerk/treasurer to just town clerk.
Members of the Millington town council discuss their frustration regarding recent issues with school buses during a meeting Tuesday. From left are Councilman Kevin Hemstock, Councilwoman Michelle Holland, Councilman Wayne Starkey and Councilman Eli Manning. PHOTO BY DORIAN MITCHELL