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Spotlight on Safety: Monticello School District Transportation Department

October 20, 2011

It took less than a millisecond for Monticello Schools Director of Transportation Martin Gershowitz to summarize the most important part of his job: safety!Monticello Schools Transportation

While overseeing his 58 bus drivers, 20 attendants, six mechanics and three office staff in the largest school district in Sullivan County, the issue of safety is embedded in every action and every decision that is made. With the precious cargo that is transported – children – it is no wonder that there is no room for compromise.

“Our staff is extremely conscientious and aware of the magnitude of their responsibility,” said Gershowitz, who has been with the district for a dozen years. “I commend them on their safety record.”

NY State requires a commercial license to drive one of the large yellow school buses and in addition to the rigorous requirements to get such a license, the State Education and Motor Vehicle departments require an annual six-hour safety course as part of a school bus driver’s training program. Gershowitz and his assistant, Mary Koselnak, also provide the drivers with additional safety instruction as needed.

Gershowitz’s second most important focus is on being as economical as possible with taxpayer money. His fleet is Monticello peoplecomprised of a variety of vehicles, which includes buses, vans and suburbans. The vehicles run 55 regular routes per day transporting almost 3,000 students to the district’s five schools, BOCES and private schools. Additionally they transport sick children, homeless children, partial day programs, mail, and board agendas.

To rein in costs, the larger buses, which seat 48-72 people, are diesel powered vehicles because of the better mileage and extended maintenance requirements they get using that type of fuel. In addition, there is a no-idling policy that is strictly enforced as a way to economize. All bus drivers are required to turn off their vehicles whenever students are loading and unloading.

Every year, Gershowitz analyzes his budget meticulously to find cost savings. He works to consolidate routes and bus stops when possible. His department’s preventive maintenance schedule – brakes, tires, inspections, oil changes, etc. - not only ensures that his vehicles are safe, but also extends their lifetime and helps avoid the need for major repairs. This makes it more likely the buses will meet their projected usage of 10 years/120,000 miles. To ensure that every penny is accounted for, Gershowitz even uses the waste oil from his vehicles to heat the bus garage.

“Our mission is to provide transportation for the student body as safely and economically as possible,” said Gershowitz. “I take that directive very seriously.”

Photos: Director of Transportation Martin Gershowitz is flanked by his assistant director Mary Koselnak, left, and account clerk Cindy Conroy. Missing from the photo is dispatcher Lorraine Lattimer.

Transportation staff members from left, attendant Heidi Barbaneri and driver Janet Meddaugh prepare to do a safety inspection on their vehicle prior to leaving the bus yard.

Did you know?

  •  Unless there is a safety issue, Monticello School District students are required to walk to a centralized bus stop or to their school within certain distances as follows:
     - Elementary school students, Grades K-5: ¼ mile or less
     - Middle school/High school students, Grades 6-12: ½ mile or less
  • As part of the NY State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) requirements, six buses must be available in the bus yard each week for inspection. When possible, spare buses are available in case of emergencies, extracurricular trips and/or breakdowns.
  • Parents are invited to contact the bus garage to discuss any driver/attendant issue or to thank the driver/attendant for a job well done. If parents wish to talk to a driver, they should not do so while students are loading or unloading, they should contact the bus garage at 794-8570.