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Accidental Activism — Fighting the Arlington Public School Bus System

I am  “week before vacation” crazy busy;  and yet, I’ve found myself thrust into the center of a community battle.  I went to a neighborhood “call to action” meeting on Saturday, and darn it, I never can walk away without taking on assignments.

Background
I live in Arlington, VA, and pay a ton in property taxes in large part so I can send my kids to truly fabulous schools.  I also bought a house on a bus route; in a neighborhood separated from the local school by some pretty significant commuter roads.  About a week ago a bomb was dropped on the entire neighborhood that after having busing for decades, we now lived inside the “official walk zone.”  Um, what?!

Following the APS advice to check their “official walk map” on the website, I find my map shows me OUT of the zone.  It took them a week to realize their mistake.  But instead of saying “we screwed up”, they try to argue that those maps were never the official walk zones.  Seriously?  They say “walk zone” right on the darn thing.

Getting Activist
I started the Facebook page called “Arlington Parents for Safe School Transportation”.   From a dozen of us down the street to over 260 people from all over Arlington, this little page is driving media coverage, organizing a public information assault on the school system and giving a lot of people a place to complain in good company.

Our group also started a petition calling for a moratorium on implementation of the new plan, and its getting a lot of traction, with over 400 signatures in 3 days.

Dr. Murphy, are you listening?
Numerous inquiries, letters, appeals have been sent in with no reply.  Dr. Murphy, our Superintendent wants us to follow their cockamamie 3-week appeals process; um, school starts in less than 2 weeks.  I want to know:  Dr. Murphy, why did your staff say nary a word, for more than a year, about a plan that tosses kids off of buses?  Oh, but I have more:

  • How can you NOT know how many people have been kicked off the bus?
  • Why do you insist on justifying this scheme by claiming that loads of kids were jumping the bus against the rules, when you know that was a tiny issue that could have been addressed otherwise?
  • Dr. Murphy, have YOU read the actual report that was commissioned on “modernizing” our bus system?  Did you see that the consultants write that the problem was not a lack of seats, but a poor utilization of the buses already in use?
  • Are you the type of leader that accepts shutting the public out of major policy changes?

But then there the actual bus changes are so wacky that even more questions come to mind:

  • So you say that routes are more efficient, and yet we have kids who are now getting on the bus MUCH earlier than before?
  • You keep claiming that only 5 schools have been impacted, and this is so not the case.  More than 15 schools have been impacted, just check out our Facebook page and you can see who is claiming they’ve been booted.
  • And this expensive software program that you are using to “route” our kids, did you realize that many kids have been routed through major intersections?
  • And more about that software; how come some people who never had busing before because they already lived so close to schools are now getting bus vouchers?

Might I add that when your “test” implementation goes terribly poorly, typically, whatever is tested is not put into service until all the bugs have been fixed.  Ask any technology person and they’ll tell you never deploy a system full of bugs.  And yet, that is exactly what is happening.

Wake Up!
APS is in ignore and defy mode.  But ignoring the public isn’t good.  Dr. Murphy, esteemed members of the school board, in case you haven’t noticed, people are pissed off.  People feel betrayed and lied to.  People all over Arlington think you let us down, and we don’t think you are trying to take any responsibility for the poor manner in which all of this bus stuff has been handled.

So, despite being busy, I happily and without reservation continue to work with my fellow Arlingtonians to stop you from forging ahead on this stupid transportation scheme.  I will see you at the next school board meeting, and you can count on hearing from me after that.  You may have your hands over your ears and eyes, but discontent is GROWING, Dr. Murphy; people are not accepting this change, and people will not stop demanding answers.

I look forward to a day when you realize that it is in your interest, in our district’s interest, in our entire community’s interest to hold public forums to discuss this issue.  I promise I will come, I promise many many parents from one end of this county to the other will be there to discuss.

Read the press
http://www.arlnow.com/2012/08/22/hundreds-of-parents-protest-against-aps-bus-changes/

http://washingtonexaminer.com/arlington-parents-fight-new-bus-rules/article/2505573#.UDQzTmt5mK0

http://arlingtonmercury.org/articles/school-parents-are-fighting-back

Lend your voice
Email the APS School Board:  school.board@apsva.us
Email Dr. Murphy: superintendent@apsva.us

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