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LETTER TO PARENT GROUP ON TRANSPORTATION ISSUES IS CALLED 'RUMOR-MONGERING' BY SUPERINTENDENT

The head of the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District's parent-teacher group was accused by officials Friday of "rumor-mongering" and spreading misinformation after sending a letter that warns -- incorrectly, officials said -- of bus drivers losing jobs and bus safety programs being cut.

She, on the other hand, doesn't see it that way and believes the district will maintain the transportation program it has operated for so many years.

"It's terribly misleading and incorrect," Ken-Ton Superintendent David A. Paciencia said of the letter byDonette Darrow, whom Paciencia said is the head of the Parent-Teacher-Student Association Council.

"It's rumor-mongering and playing to people's fears," said Trustee Dan Wiles. "This is creating a crisis that doesn't exist."

In her letter -- sent to urge council members to attend a 7 p.m. meeting Monday at the district's Green Acres building -- Darrow links an independent study of the Transportation Department to the possibility that Ken-Ton's bus service will be handed over to a private provider such as Laidlaw.

The letter suggests that the bus drivers, most of whom live in the district, would not work for a private contractor and would thus end up without jobs, benefits and retirement. She also says the district's bus safety and kindergarten bus orientation programs would end.

Darrow said Saturday that the whole issue has been blown out of proportion and she had no intention of stirring up controversy.

"I would never be critical of the school district, because I think they're doing a wonderful job," Darrow said. "This issue comes up every few years and nothing has happened yet.

"I'm all for these studies -- I think they're great. (The consequences outlined in the letter would happen) only if the district chooses to go with an outside firm, and that probably will not happen."

Monday's planned meeting is just a routine meeting where officials from the Transportation Department were invited to speak to provide clearer insight into the issues, she added.

"There are certainly fears in parents that they may go to an outside firm, and there always will be, but we're trying to show them Monday night that it probably won't happen.

"I think our Transportation Department is wonderful and I don't see them changing it," Darrow said. "(But) I would like to find out as much as anybody else if these rumors are true."

Paciencia claims that Darrow's letter contains factual errors as well as misleading information. For instance, he said, there have been no discussions or plans for ending either the bus safety or orientation programs.

The study under way by the Transportation Advisory Service, outside consultants, is aimed at finding inefficiencies, he said, and there has never been a request that privatization be looked at. "We're not out to have people unemployed," Paciencia said. "We're just trying to see if there are ways to do things more efficiently."

District officials were also upset that they were not invited to the meeting. The guest speakers were the head of the Transportation Department, the president of the union that represents bus drivers and a veteran bus driver.

"They forgot to invite some key people," Paciencia said.

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