Rochester residents want answers over fired bus driver

By Tanner Harding | Oct 13, 2017
Photo by: Tanner Harding

Rochester — After weeks of discussing it on Facebook, Rochester families came out in numbers to the Rochester School Committee to support former bus driver Ralph Stinson.

Stinson, who has been driving Rochester students for nearly three decades, was recently fired from his job at Braga Transportation, with which the Old Rochester district has a contract. Concerned parents have been discussing his termination on the “Rochester, MA” Facebook group and want one answer – why?

Superintendent Doug White couldn’t quite give them that answer.

“Our request was to have the driver switch routes,” White said. “Due to confidentiality, we cannot share other information.”

White added that he asked the company to switch drivers “so all required regulations could be met.”

Residents then asked why, if the request for Stinson was to be moved to a different route, was he fired?

White said he didn’t have an answer for that, as that was the decision of Braga Transportation.

“The initial request was to switch [Stinson] to another route,” White said. “What happened between the bus company and employee after that, I don’t know.”

However, residents continued to press White and the school committee. “What needs were supposedly not met?” asked one resident.

White elaborated that every child must have the opportunity to be transported, and that was not being done. “The major concern to the bus company was that all students on the route were not being transported to and from school on time,” he said. “Changing the driver would have solved the problem.”

The issue of cameras on busses also came up. Old Rochester Business Director Patrick Spencer said a camera was installed on the bus while Stinson was still the driver.

“Buses are not outfitted with cameras,” Spencer said. “Only if there was a concern or request is one put in. There wasn’t one on that bus until the incident.”

However, Spencer said he wasn’t sure how long Stinson and the camera overlapped and he didn’t elaborate further on specifics of the incident he mentioned.

Still, residents weren’t satisfied.

“I wanted to reiterate your comments,” Donna Ziobro said. “The needs weren’t being met. Was this child being ignored? I’m missing something here…Was the bus driver saying ‘you can’t get on this bus?'’’

School Committee Chair Tina Rood reminded residents that due to confidentiality issues, specifics could not be discussed.

Residents, growing more and more frustrated due to lack of answers, asked why the needs of one student are being put above the needs of the rest of the students on the bus.

School Committee member Sharon Hartley spoke up, and said they the committee understands the frustration, but that the group doesn’t have total control over what happened.

“It’s hard to talk about this one,” Hartley said. “We’re not the employers…we don’t have all the controls the employer might have…I never remember a problem like this coming before us in all those years. This process is not one we want to have repeated…We don’t want to be in a place like this where so many people in our town are upset.”

Neither Stinson, the person who filed the initial complaint with the district, or a representative from the bus company was in attendance at the school committee meeting.

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