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Drivers rally for community support

May 31, 2012
By Kathleen Palumbo , Town Crier correspondent

Numerous bus drivers for Austintown Local Schools were in attendance as the Austintown Board of Education met on Monday, May 21, where they offered public comments and provided written explanation of recent shortcomings in services resulting from the board's decision to eliminate their health care benefits.

Sharing written notification addressed to Austintown parents of school-age children offering their apologies for any inconvenience in transporting their children, drivers went on to explain that in light of the board's decision, "it has become imperative that we manage our family as well as our own medical needs before June 30, 2012," and thanking them for their patience and understanding.

Providing yellow ribbons and asking for community support by tying them on their vehicles antennae, information provided by the drivers listed numerous requirements for their positions including the passage of an intense Commercial Driver's License program, an additional eight hours of in-service training prior to the start of each school year, CPR certification and bi-annual review of their motor vehicle record, and as they implored support, stated, "We are legally responsible for our community's most precious product, your children."

In April, the board approved a resolution to cut the driver's hours from four hours per day to three and a half hours, thereby eliminating their eligibility for health care through the district after June 30.

Public comments included former Austintown School's bus driver and 45-year resident of Austintown, Peggy Smith, who shared her displeasure in the board's decision. "For you to do this is really immoral," said Smith, adding, "I have supported this school and everything in it, but as of thisno moreno more."

Also addressing the board during public comments was Austintown resident and Austintown Schools employee, Sandy Basista, who shared that while her son, who qualifies for special education, "made great strides" while a student at both Lloyd Elementary and Frank Ohl, he has suffered declining self-esteem and confidence and has great anxiety as a result of bullying at the middle school.

Having met with Superintendent Vince Colaluca on May 11, Basista said she and her husband were told "he would check on it." Displeasure with the unresolved situation led Basista to tearfully announce that she and her husband have chosen to pull both of their children from the district.

"I will take my pride with me," said Basista, adding as she addressed the board, "and all of you can keep your Falcon."

In other news:

Numerous students were recognized including:

-Gabby Figuroa, for her appointment to the 2011-2012 Window Nation Indoor Track and Field All American High School team for weight throw First Team.

-Rickki Farina, Allison Hassay, Joshua Eddy, Tina Kalentis, and Daniel Starkey were recognized as National Technical Honor Society Inductees from Fitch enrolled in the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.

-Sabrina Segretario was recognized as winner, and Michael Bernard, Kayla Fisher, Andrew Green, Bree Hunter, and Soriya Rezapourian, as honorable mention as students of language art's teacher Michelle Best's class, who have been selected as honorees in the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation's Student Holocaust Writing Contest.

Also recognized was the 2011-2012 Falcotech Robotics Team; Ric Zimmermann and Mike Mellott, Advisors Regional Finalist Award and Industrial Design Award sponsored by General Motors, and Michelle Best for the Education Division of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's selection to be a Museum Teacher Fellow for 2012-2013.



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