FAIRBANKS — School district Superintendent Pete Lewis updated school board members Tuesday night on his follow-up to school bus safety concerns expressed by a dozen employees of First Student transportation company in public testimony at the March 5 board meeting.
School bus drivers, mechanics, monitors and attendants testified describing a pattern and variety of safety inconsistencies from mechanical defects and below freezing bus interiors, to understaffing and other irregularities such as not allowing enough time for daily driver safety inspections.
In the two weeks since, Lewis said he has met twice with the Teamsters business representative for First Student employees.
He also has met personally with Linda Burtwhistle, president of First Student, along with the head of the North American Operations, as well as Cal Hull, senior vice president and Tom Hyatt, First Student Alaska general manager.
Lewis said First Student has committed to an inspection of their shops by a local safety consultant of the Occupational Safety and Health, State of Alaska.
In addition, Lewis said, he contacted Bob Koslick, a former Alaska State Trooper, retired Alyeska chief of security for the pipeline and a retired DMV CDL supervisor, to conduct an investigation.
“He is investigating all complaints, and he has been given a tape (of the meeting).
“All safety issues will be addressed, and those that are valid will be followed up,” Lewis said.
Lewis said he will meet with Koslick today for an initial report, which will be followed by a final report.
“I’ve taken these allegations seriously, but it is going to take some time to sort through each one,” he told the board.
The school board will continue its final work session and public hearing on the 2013-2014 school budget from 4-9 p.m. today in the board room of the Administrative Center, 520 Fifth Avenue.
On Thursday, the school board will hold a special meeting from 5:30-7:30 p.m. to approve the 2013-2014 recommended budget.
Board members suggested that residents wishing to advocate for additional education dollars for the district can testify to the Senate Finance Committee at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Legislative Office on the third floor of the Alaska USA building.
Contact staff writer Mary Beth Smetzer at 459-7546.