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School Board to Durham Leaders: How Will You Restore Our Confidence?

Representatives from the private company hired to manage Rochester's transportation department addressed the recent arrest of a bus driver.

For more than 30 minutes Monday night, Rochester Board of Education members listened to representatives of Durham School Services as they detailed the transition from a school-managed to a privately-managed bus system this summer.

Justin Grygiel and Colleen Mayes talked about the drivers that stayed, the new drivers that were hired and the process for training and checking the backgrounds of each and every one of them.

After their presentation was finished, Board Member Pat Piskulich asked a question that many in the community have been expressing in light of the arrest Friday of a bus driver who was allegedly stealing clothes while on a route; police say it was her second arrest. 

"So which piece of your background check would you say failed in this case?" Piskulich asked.

Due diligence

On Friday, 53-year-old Roseanne Stacho, a bus driver with 25 years of experience, was arrested at Parisian in Rochester Hills before she was set to pick up students at Stoney Creek High School. Her bus was parked in the store parking lot. Stacho was charged with first-degree retail fraud; police say she was caught trying to steal $543 in clothing from the department store.

(See "Rochester Bus Driver Arrested at Parisian for Theft Had Prior Record for Retail Fraud.")

Mayes explained that while some shopping centers around town are approved places for drivers to park when it doesn't make sense for them to return their bus to the school garage before their next route, the Village of Rochester Hills, where Stacho was arrested, "was not an approved layover location."

Grygiel, the director of business development for the Illinois-based Durham, said Stacho has been put on administrative leave while Durham does its "due diligence" in investigating the alleged crime.

Grygiel said Stacho worked for Durham at Birmingham Schools for the past three years and was one of two drivers from other Durham fleets in southeast Michigan to transfer to Rochester this summer.

Background check

According to Grygiel, in hiring a driver Durham checks the driver's driving record and also checks for:

  • DUI or DWI charges in the past 10 years.
  • More than two moving violations in the past three years.
  • More than one accident in the past 36 months.
  • Major violations in past three years.
  • Convictions of a felony or misdemeanor more than 10 years old that involved violence or direct harm to a person.
  • Convictions of other felonies less than 10 years old.
  • A pattern of misdemeanors.

Durham asks employees annually for disclosure of crimes or violations and will do spot checks of individuals as warranted.

Stacho had a prior arrest; in February, she was arrested for and eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree retail fraud, according to Captain Michael Johnson of the Oakland County Sheriff's Office.  

In response to Piskulich's question about what was missed in Stacho's background check, Grygiel said Durham is still investigating.

"At the time, there was no issue with (Stacho's) background," Grygiel said. "It's not like there was a history there or a tendency to be able to say this person has this history on their record. And again, the charges are alleged."

Grygiel also reiterated that no students were impacted by the arrest.

Board members expressed their disappointment with the situation.

"Given that you are new to our district and this is a very public event, I think it hurts the confidence of our community," Board Member Beth Talbert said. 

"What steps would you recommend we take now to help the community feel confident?"

Board member Lisa Nowak suggested that Durham report back on its due diligence in one week. "We need and you need to restore that confidence, and that's going to require some extra effort — we hope you're up for that," Nowak said.

Last spring, Rochester Schools leaders approved the  along with custodian and partial ground services, to save the district money. The school district's contract with Durham is for three years and is estimated to save the district $4.7 million.

Mike Reno September 25, 2012 at 09:43 AM
Tough talk from a school board that just wasted $180K on severance to a superintendent after a botched hire. I wonder what THEY are going to do to try to earn the public confidence?
C Bieganski September 25, 2012 at 12:16 PM
The Board asked Durham/Colleen Mayes how 'they' will restore the Boards confidence? What an outrage! Better question Board, how are YOU going to restore the communities faith in your leadership? It was the RCS Board and their Administrative Center Team (ACT) that voted to outsource the Transportation department. This combined with the ridiculous severance package for the former Superintendent who 'resigned', is directly the result of YOUR poor leadership. If anyone needs to restore the communities confidence, it is the RCS Board of Directors. To place the blame anywhere else is misguided and cowardly.
Jeremy Nielson September 25, 2012 at 12:39 PM
I'm surprised the title of the article wasn't "Citizens to School Board: How Will You Restore Our Confidence?" It's not just Durham who has to ensure this doesn't happen again. It's the School Board. We elected these folks to make the best decisions in providing a quality education for our kids. So, why weren't the same questions answered by our elected school board last night? Instead of Piskulich's "background check failure" question, we have "So which piece of your outsourcing and contracting process would you say failed in this case? Instead of Talbert's "confident question", we have "What steps will the board take now to help the community feel confident?" Board members expressed their disappointment with the situation? Citizens have been expressing their disappointment with several school board situations since August! So, I'd like to redirect Ms. Nowak's comment back upon the board: "We need and you need to restore that confidence, and that's going to require some extra effort — we hope you're up for that." Because merely asking a few tough questions in a staged dog and pony show won't cut it.
Mike Reno September 25, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Well said, Jeremy. This is an unfortunate situation, for sure. But this woman is a neighbor -- I believe the article said she lives in Rochester. There is no automatic notification process from the authorities, so the contractor is entirely at the mercy of their employees for notification. The district would face the same risk of non-disclosure if it was a direct employee. And really, the measure of the leadership is how they deal with crisis. Shifting blame is not a very inspiring or impressive approach.
Joshua Raymond September 25, 2012 at 01:50 PM
I'm uncertain as to what the public expects. A background check cannot provide information on who would be likely to commit a crime that has not already committed one. If Stacho's first known crime was in February, that was 2 1/2 years after she was hired by Durham. Even with yearly background checks, a crime may not be known for 16 months (1 year between checks + 4 months to be in the system). I also found it peculiar that her February conviction was not mentioned at the BOE meeting. Even if school employees or contractors are required by law to inform the district after charges or conviction, that is still a requirement on the employee, not the district or firm. A district bus driver could as easily have not reported. I'm not writing this to advocate for Durham or the Blue Group. Even though my kids do not currently ride the bus, this is a community issue that should attempt to be resolved. My question is what steps could or should be taken to prevent this in the future? Should software using GPS tracking notify administration if a bus is stopped too long in an unauthorized location? That could be beneficial for preventing this, but also for notifying in case of an emergency where perhaps the bus driver has become incapacitated. Should monthly background checks be run? It sounds like Durham's background checks go against a number of state and federal databases. That could be expensive and gain little. What other ideas do people have?
Michele Manhire September 25, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Well said Jeremy. 'Dog and pony show', indeed...
Jeremy Nielson September 25, 2012 at 03:19 PM
I think the public expectation is clear -- the public expects our children to be safe when they're riding a bus, walking through school buildings, and participating in extracurricular activities. I think redirecting these questions onto the public-at-large might be premature and only insulates our school board from the responsibility of their actions. Listening to the questions, it seems clear that our school board has no ideas of their own on how to prevent this from happening in the future. They've instead passed their responsibility onto their contractor. Unlike the public at large, these school board members spend thousands of tax dollars yearly to take MASB "school board" classes. They meet privately with the Administrative Center Team on these topics. They have access to thousands of other school boards across the state - many of whom have privatized and outsourced already. What are other boards doing to ensure safety? Why do we demand the public find the solution, when our own school board can't? Despite expensive training, information, and experience - our school board has abdicated its responsibility for managing this situation to the contractors it hired. I welcome any ideas people have. But I think our leadership teams owe the community answers to their own questions - and need to work hard to rebuild the community's trust in the Board of TRUSTees.
Clara T September 25, 2012 at 04:39 PM
The interim superintendent should immediately assume responsibility for the public-private transportation transition. A meeting with district and Durham personnel should produce a concise monitoring and reporting mechanism for the coming school year and the superintendent should provide direct oversight for the process. Many former RCS transportation employees now work for Durham. Engage them in structuring a meaningful tool and getting it operational ASAP. No 6 month study committees, please. Get it done. If such accountability measures have not already been established, the same process should be followed for food services, maintenance and any other services which are transitioning from public to private. The district pays plenty of administrators handsomely. They can kick in the time to make this work.
MARIE LUCAS September 25, 2012 at 11:15 PM
I would like to see a report on the custodial operations.
KB September 26, 2012 at 12:27 PM
I happen to know a LOT of staff in the district, and the buildings are filthy. They were never cleaned thoroughly this summer and when chemicals were not available... the company used water and window cleaner to clean everything from bathrooms to furniture when they did clean some things. Buildings are still being left unlocked, employees are still not wearing ID badges, there are still not enough employees to cover the cleaning of the buildings and the Facilities Operations Director knows that information but is not acting on it... There are fines that are supposed to be imposed for all of these items... Is the district collecting on these items in their entirety or just what is necessary to ensure that the community does not see that the board and administrative center team failed. They will NEVER admit failure, even if it costs the district more money. I would like to see how many staff members have issues with their background checks (I have heard that it is a LARGE number of current staff). The new company also subcontracted out employees all summer without doing background checks on them as well. There seems to be no accountability for the new cleaning company even though the district still has a Director of Operations, Custodial Manager, and two Custodial Coordinators on payroll !!! Why on earth are we still paying these enormous salaries to continue to let these situations occur. Is this REALLY the staff we want working around our children ???
Peter Adair September 26, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Just a thought, would you rather they fire him and pay him the whole of the contract? I think it was a good thing, better than 3 more years of him in office or firing him and paying him the whole contract.
KB September 28, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Peter, How could you think this deal was a good thing when the Superintendent RESIGNED... In my experience in the corporate world, resignations are just what they are meant to be... you are leaving your employer on your own free will. We may want to investigate as to why the Superintendent was escorted out of the Administration building this past year and why was there secret 2 am meetings at the Administration building with the Superintendent and Attorneys present... Something to ponder as well. What is really going on ?
Mike Reno September 28, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Well, technically speaking, he didn't really resign. He sent out a note saying that he was planning to find a new job. The point is that we could've had this lame duck for another 3 years. So negotiating it down to 1 year was a better deal. But this is really just typical school board spin. They are deflecting the fact that they rather stupidly -- and needlessly -- agreed to a four-year contract. They sign this dumb contract, but then think we should be pleased that they were able to buy their way out for "just" $180K.
Peter Adair September 28, 2012 at 02:02 PM
The most important thing the Board does is hire the Super, and make sure he guides the district according to the mission of the district. I'm not denying the fact this was a bad hire, but to get out with paying 2 years of a 4 year contract is not a bad thing. We should evaluate the Board on who they hire and vote with this information.
KB September 28, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Mike, Technically he DID resign. Please refer to the September 17 board packet page 7, where he actually wrote the word resign in his letter to the board. I still feel there is way more to this story than the board wants the public to know.

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