By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — The mother of a middle school student was angry that her young son and other students from his school were ordered to get off their bus at a stop far from their homes.
But she is happy with school and city officials, saying they responded to her complaint quickly and assured her it won’t happen again.
Tina Maglio said that on Thursday, an early release day for students, her 11-year-old son, a sixth grader at Whittier Middle School, was dropped off near Monument Square. She said his usual stop is at Primrose Street and 5th Avenue, many blocks away from where he was dropped off.
Maglio said the bus driver told her son and about a dozen other students he dropped off near Monument Square that he was late to pick up other students.
“My son had to walk and he’s not a street-smart kid,” Maglio said. “I was worried about the neighborhood he had to walk through ... There was a shooting on Cedar Street last week. These are kids who aren’t used to walking through these neighborhoods.”
Maglio was referring to an incident that happened on the night of Jan. 24 when according to police, a drug deal that went bad ended up with two men being shot near the intersection of 8th Avenue and Cedar Street. Cedar Street runs through the Acre neighborhood and intersects with 5th Avenue.
Maglio said her son had to cross Cedar Street on his way home.
Maglio said she contacted school officials and the mayor’s office the day of the incident. She asked why her son was dropped off far from his regular bus stop.
“They called me back later in the day,” she said, noting that she received calls from David Van Dam, Mayor James Fiorentini’s chief of staff, and Tim Rooney, who is in charge of student services for the School Department. She said she also got a call Friday morning from Brian Gill, assistant principal at Whittier Middle School.
“David called me back to make sure Tim had called me, and Tim called me again to say he was in touch with the school and that it was on their priority list to investigate on Friday,” Maglio said. “He told me there would be a new driver on the route, and they will have it all sorted out within a day or two as to what actually happened.”
School Superintendent James Scully said it was “human error, plain and simple.”
“It is my understanding that because of the error, there has been a shift in staffing,” Scully said.
Susan Bellerose, office manager for Coppola Bus Inc., which provides transportation for Haverhill students, said the mixup was the result of Maglio’s son and about 10 other students missing their normal bus at the end of the school day. Therefore, another bus had to be sent to the school to pick them up, Bellerose said.
Bellerose said the students’ usual driver was assigned to a different route that day. When Maglio’s son and several other students didn’t see their their driver or their usual bus, they went back into the school, Bellerose said. She said their usual bus was parked two spaces up from its usual spot and they didn’t go looking for it. She said the bus they should have taken completed its entire route, which included the Primrose Street stop that Maglio’s son should have been dropped at.
Bellerose said another bus had to be sent to Whittier to pick up Maglio’s son and the other students, and that the driver dropped off Maglio’s son blocks from his regular stop. Bellerose said the driver was running late and had to pick up younger students from Pentucket Lake Elementary School.
“I told him he should have gone down the street (to the regular stop) and he said he knows and that he was running late,” Bellerose said of the driver.
“I do understand her concerns,” Bellerose said about Maglio. “She’s a mom and she worries about her child.”
Maglio said she was pleased with the response she received from city and school officials, including a follow-up conversation with Gill. She said he assured her that her son would not be dropped off at the wrong stop again.
Scully said the School Department transports more than 6,000 students a day and sometimes mistakes happen, but they are not intentional.
“We are fully aware that watching out for the well being of every child is the most important part of our job,” Scully said. “I’m glad the people in the School Department and city were very attentive to the needs of this parent and that it worked out well.”