Resident Files Appeal with State Over Bus Stop Request

The School Board will vote at their next meeting on a petition to change a school bus stop due to safety concerns after the petitioner filed an appeal with the state and called for an investigation into the Board’s handling of the matter.

After filing with the New Hampshire Department of Education (DOE) an appeal of the School Board’s unwillingness to change his daughter’s bus stop and asking the DOE to look into the School Board’s handling of his petition, David Fletcher of Darrow Way received an email from Superintendent Nate Greenberg on Oct. 17 saying there will be a full board vote on his petition and he is invited to present any new evidence he has at the next meeting.

Greenberg said he received a phone call from the DOE last week, during which he was informed the board cannot move forward with Fletcher’s appeal unless there is a formal vote by the School Board.

Fletcher argues his daughter’s bus stop is unsafe due to speeding cars in the area, cars rolling through stop signs on the rotary, and visibility issues.

Once the Board makes a decision regarding changing Fletcher’s school bus stop, he may inform the DOE whether or not he would like to proceed with an appeal.

After sending a letter to School Board Chair Leitha Reilly saying he would like to see more transparency in the process of creating bus routes and asking for a response to his petition for a school bus stop change, Reilly responded in an email to Fletcher that her “final response” is that his bus stop is safe. Reilly said at the Board’s Sept. 9 meeting that she and Curro would revisit the matter.

“I trust from your most recent correspondence that you are not satisfied with the actions, or in-actions, of the Board as it relates to your child’s designated bus stop,” Reilly wrote in the email to Fletcher. “Despite my lengthy phone conversation with Mrs. Fletcher, your appeal to the School Board on 9 September 2014, your informative email and my own observations of said stop, I am not compelled to reverse the position of the Business Administrator as your bus stop does not warrant special consideration beyond that of other locations in the District. I take the safety of the 4,400 plus students throughout this District very seriously, as I do my responsibility as a steward of the taxpayer’s dollars. As such you have asked for, and I offer, my final response to you and Mrs. Fletcher on this matter.”

Fletcher said he asked the DOE to look into the handling of his petition after receiving Reilly’s email because he thinks the minimum requirements for due process by the local school board, as defined by ED204 of Rules of Practice and Procedure were not met.

“I took her email to mean case-closed,” said Fletcher.

According to the requirements, a School Board must vote on a petition, then provide the applicant with a statement that the local school board has complied with all the requirements of RSA 91-A, the state’s Right to Know law, including compliance with all the recordkeeping requirements of that law.

But Reilly said she wasn’t speaking for the board in her email.

“Mr. Fletcher asked me for my response on the matter; I wasn’t speaking for the board,” she said. “He asked me to respond, and I responded. That was my final response.”

Reilly said she is aware of Fletcher’s appeal and saw the documentation for his case at the School District Offices.

After speaking with the DOE, Fletcher said he was informed a representative would visit Londonderry to review the bus stop and the safety issue there; separately, his concern with the handing of his petition would be forwarded to the Commissioner’s Office.

Almost two weeks after Reilly sent her email, Greenberg sent Fletcher an email informing him the School Board would vote on his petition.

When asked if the decision to schedule a public hearing and full board vote on Fletcher’s petition is in response to his appeal and request for an investigation into the handling of his petition by the Board, Reilly said, “I don’t think so. I just don’t think we had resolved it. We were going to come back and revisit it.”

Fletcher said if the board votes to change his bus stop, he would have no reason to pursue his appeal with the state.

“I would have no reason to go forward, but I would probably ask the State to look into how the original request was handled and maybe give some guidance on how to handle petitions in the future by the board,” he said. “This is not just about us, it’s about everyone in the district.”

The DOE will have to make a decision on whether or not to investigate the handling of Fletcher’s petition, or to hold a hearing on the Board’s decision regarding his bus stop, according to Greenberg.

“The bottom line is and has been, we feel that the bus stop is safe,” he said. “Mr. Fletcher asked the Board to consider his bus stop, the board remanded that to [Business Administrator Peter Curro], and agreed to go back and review it. That was an appropriate action, I believe.”

Fletcher, who received a letter in September from Greenberg ordering him to “cease and desist” following and taping buses in the District – something he said he was doing to gather evidence of the safety concerns motivating his petition for a school bus stop change – said he has yet to receive any information regarding the policy used to create bus routes.

“At the end of the day, they have no mechanism in place to change anything,” he said.

Fletcher added he would like to see the taxpayers weigh in on the School District’s process of pulling out of bus stops in cul-de-sacs, which Curro said is an effort to cut down on the length of student commutes and to cut costs.

“I’d like to get a warrant article on the ballot,” Fletcher said. “Let’s see if the taxpayers want to have buses come down cul-de-sacs. Most of the parents who approved this whole process six or seven years back don’t have children in the schools anymore.”

Curro said safety is always his primary concern when creating bus routes and the reason buses go into certain cul-de-sacs but not others is confidential.

Fletcher said the Sept. 15 letter Greenberg sent him by certified mail, to which Police Chief William Hart and Prosecutor Kevin Coyle were sent duplicates, “was another example of them trying to shut me down.

“He said I was endangering the safe transportation of students scaring the children,” said Fletcher, who contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) about the letter.

“The police responded when I was videotaping the buses and said I wasn’t breaking any laws,” he said. “I told the police I would let them know when I was filming the buses. I never got out of my car and I obeyed all traffic laws.

“It was a clear tactic to make me stop,” he continued. “ It didn’t work, but I don’t do it anymore. I got what I wanted.” Fletcher posted the video on his website at thefletchersworld.com, which also features emails, voice recordings, and support for the case that his daughter’s school bus stop isn’t located at a safe intersection.

The District’s policy for creating bus routes is to take into consideration age groups, ensuring stops are under three-tenths of a mile from elementary school children’s homes and a half-mile from middle and high school students’ homes, according to Curro. Special accommodations are made for children with special needs or physical handicaps.

Curro said the routes are made up every year, with adjustments to reflect incoming first-, sixth-, and ninth-graders.

The public hearing and subsequent School Board vote on Fletcher’s petition was scheduled for Oct. 21, after the Londonderry Times went to print.

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