Parents Unhappy With Garrison Bus Routes

District cuts costs but students have longer rides

The Garrison School buses generated fumes this week — and not just from their tailpipes.

Eight parents attended the school board meeting on Wednesday (Sept. 6) to vent about the bus service, which has been curtailed for 2023-24 as part of efforts to avoid asking residents to override a state-mandated limit on tax increases.

“What an outrage,” said Katie Cucchiarella, who lives on South Mountain Pass, in southern Philipstown, and told The Current that her first grader’s ride to school changed from 15 minutes to an hour. She is driving him to school but said he misses traveling with his friends. “It’s unfortunate,” she said.

During the spring budget process, Garrison cut its bus service from four 66-passenger vehicles to three large buses and a 20-passenger van. Joseph Jimick, the business administrator, said the move saved $120,000. 

“The choice was a bus or a teacher,” he said. 

While the buses can accommodate up to 300 students, Superintendent Carl Albano said ridership is usually 30 to 40 percent below capacity. The district also offers transportation for its high school students from the Garrison School to Haldane, O’Neill and Putnam Valley.

At the Wednesday meeting, Jimick said that “the routes are longer for everyone.” To make the system as fair as possible, the district is attempting to ensure that if a student has a long ride in the morning, the child will have a shorter ride in the afternoon. 


Garrison this year eliminated one of its larger buses, causing routes to become longer. (Photo by J. Asher)

Jimick also said that the buses no longer go through as many neighborhoods, stopping at or near driveways. Instead, the district created “community stops” that are not always within easy walking distance of home. 

He said these issues were discussed in the spring when the district was seeking ways to cut costs and avoid a second consecutive request to taxpayers to override the cap. The board adopted a $12.56 million budget that included a 3.3 percent increase, matching its state cap for 2023-24. The year before, residents OK’d an override (which requires 60 percent approval) of 6.6 percent (the cap was 2.2 percent) but only after rejecting a request for a 9.18 percent hike.

Speaking at the meeting, Ned Rauch, who has two children at the school, said that the bus changes are the result of the board’s failure to ask for an override. “We got what we asked for, which was a lousy bus system,” he said.

Rauch, who lives within 2 miles of the school, said that his children have a 10-minute ride in the morning and a 45-minute ride home in the afternoon. As a result, he picks them up after school. “It’s too long for little kids who are already exhausted at the end of the day,” he said. 

Other parents expressed frustration with their community stops. Ryan Quinn, who has one child at Garrison and two at Haldane High School, said that the bus used to stop at her driveway in Continental Village but is now a 10-minute walk to a spot she says is dangerous. “Winston Lane has become a speedway,” she said, although she noted the time her children spend on the bus hasn’t changed much.

Jimick added that bus-route challenges are not unusual during the first weeks of school. “There’s some tweaking that will have to take place,” he said.

2 thoughts on “Parents Unhappy With Garrison Bus Routes

  1. In the effort to cut our transportation resources, efforts to avoid asking parents were successful.

    Efforts to avoid asking current bus drivers, former transportation directors, Putnam County and/or state personnel officers were also successful.

    The safety of our children is of paramount importance. We, as parents and as a community, do not accept that the professionals we entrust with our children’s safety, health and well-being will be anything other than qualified, experienced, knowledgeable, certified, licensed and responsible in the performance of their duties.

    How is it that our transportation system could undergo such radical transformation without the direct and hands-on input of qualified personnel, such as those who have worked for, supervised and served our community for years?

    Putnam County requires that supervisors of transportation have, at a minimum, four years of full-time experience in the supervision or administration of a school district transportation program; or six years of full-time experience in the operation of a school bus or in the repair of automotive equipment of which at least two years must have been supervisory experience or service as a 19A certified examiner; or the equivalent combination of experience and training.

    In addition to that certification, supervisors must hold 19A certification and a School Bus Driver Instruction (SBDI) certificate issued by the state Department of Education, and a license to operate a school bus.

    Who ignored this? Who didn’t seek guidance? Who disregarded these common-sense and legal requirements? Something’s not right and it needs to be fixed before we are faced with a tragedy that will have been avoidable.

    • In February 2022, the director of facilities and transportation for the Garrison school district, Michael Twardy, retired. Rather than hire a new director at the cost of about $150,000 annually in salary and benefits, Superintendent Carl Albano said the district dropped the position and distributed Twardy’s duties among other staff. Joseph Jimick, the business administrator, was named transportation coordinator and this year will receive a stipend of $42,500. Paul Eldridge, the personnel director for Putnam County, who oversees the civil service system, told The Current: “I am not aware of anything [at Garrison] that would be in violation of state regulations or rules.” He said he spoke to Albano and that Jimick is administering a transportation contract with the bus company, which is allowed.

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