Is Your Child’s Bus Driver Qualified?

HARRISBURG (EYT) — While a recently released state audit said ineligible drivers have been allowed to get behind the wheel of Pennsylvania school buses, including five with disqualifying criminal convictions in a single district, area school districts have not been part of the problem.

Tuesday’s report by the state auditor general’s office said 21 of 132 bus drivers in the Lancaster School District didn’t meet employment standards and five Lancaster drivers had criminal convictions that should have kept them from doing jobs that involve direct contact with kids.

Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said that in audits over the past five years, his agency also found five other drivers in three districts who weren’t eligible because of convictions.

They included the following:

  • Penn Hills School District, Allegheny County: One driver with a felony drug conviction and one driver with an aggravated assault conviction;
  • Chester Upland School District, Delaware County: One driver with an aggravated assault conviction;
  • School District of the City of Philadelphia: One driver with aggravated assault and one driver with an arson conviction.

In those districts where auditors identified drivers that were ineligible because of criminal convictions those districts immediately removed them from transporting students.

The audits were generally performed more than five years ago with the results being released in 2013 and 2014.

Five area school districts were listed in the AG’s report, including Keystone in Clarion County and four in Venango County – Oil City, Franklin, Rocky Grove and the Venango County Technology Center. None from Jefferson County were found to have deficiencies in the report.

These districts fell into the category of reported deficiencies – mostly for not having records on hand or for driver’s licenses that had expired at the time of the audit.

School districts, charter schools, intermediate units, and area vocational-technical schools are required by the Public School Code to have the following documentation on all bus drivers:

  • Valid driver’s license with S-endorsement for operation of a school bus
  • Annual physical examination
  • Criminal Background Check
  • Federal Criminal History Record
  • Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Clearance
  • Arrest/Conviction Report and Certification Form PDE 6004

At the time of the audit, no area school districts had ineligible school bus drivers due to criminal convictions.

For the five with recorded deficiencies, four were reported to have had them corrected in the near future.

At Keystone, 22 bus drivers were reviewed with seven deficiencies reported. The state report said all of the deficiencies were corrected in a subsequent audit.

Keystone School District Superintendent Shawn Algoe – who wasn’t the superintendent when the audit was done after the 2011-12 school year – was disappointed to be lumped in with others who have employed drivers that had criminal convictions.

“When our audit was done, driver documents that were requested, we didn’t immediately produce. But that same day, we did provide the necessary paperwork,” Algoe said. “It was corrected in a matter of hours the same day.

“There was a change of bus and van contractors and the paperwork just needed to be transferred. All our drivers were vetted and approved.

“We never employed drivers who weren’t eligible to do so,” Algoe added. “For what happened in Lancaster, that’s inexcusable.

“Our little community, by and large, trusts its school, the contractor, and their drivers, and we never want that to change,” Algoe said.

In Venango County, at Oil City School District, 47 drivers were reviewed with 14 deficiencies reported.

Superintendent Pat Gavin said his district is in the middle of an audit that should show no deficiencies.

“We didn’t have any ineligible drivers,” Gavin said. “There was nothing in our driver’s records that prevented them from driving.”

School District Business Manager Susan Fisher said her office maintains all of the required records.

“Most of our deficiencies from the previous report were driver’s licenses that had expired at the time of the audit,” Fisher said. “The licenses were valid when they started driving, but may have expired at some point after that.”

In the Valley Grove School District, Superintendent Kevin Briggs said the nine deficiencies reported after a review of 10 drivers were mainly a result of documentation issues.

“It was mostly record-keeping stuff where some of the driver info wasn’t current. But a subsequent audit that they did showed we had everything corrected,” Briggs said.

At the Venango County Technology Center in Oil City, Director Mario Fontanazza said the 10 deficiencies that were reported after an audit of 33 drivers consisted mainly of driver’s licenses that had expired.

“It was about keeping documentation. Mostly, they were driver’s licenses that had expired when they were presented to the auditors for review,” Fontanazza said.

A subsequent review showed that all of the deficiencies had been corrected.

The full audit can be viewed here.

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