GALESBURG, Mich. (WOOD) - At a meeting Thursday night to discuss busing, Galesburg-Augusta Community Schools parents voiced their demands for change.
The meeting was scheduled after a student captured cellphone video of a bus supervisor slamming a 7-year-old student up against a window. The video has since been removed from YouTube.
The Thursday evening meeting took on a different tone than the last school board meeting, during which angry parents called Galesburg-Augusta Superintendent Tim Vagts a liar and called for him to resign. Instead, parents worked together to let district leaders know what they want from their transportation department.
Many seem to think the incident shown in the video is a symptom of a larger problem: a sloppy system with new drivers struggling to get a grasp on the route and driving the bus, causing behavior problems and safety issues to go by the wayside.
District leaders asked parents to brainstorm and share how the district could do better with transportation. Among the main discussion topics were cameras on the buses, consistency and communication.
"The communication from the beginning should have been made from day one. Everybody needs to know who's driving their kid to and from school," said one parent.
But the hot button issue -- what some parents seem to blame for the problems -- was privatization. They had objections to Ohio-based Auxilio Services running a West Michigan busing program.
"I'll be more than happy to pay a little bit more to have our bus drivers back," said parent Theresa Droemy.
Some current drivers were also at the meeting and admit they're in a tough spot.
"Their last drivers knew them, so it was easy for them to take care of the problems on the bus. We don't know all the kids. That makes it an issue," said driver Chris Bolton.
Some parents weren't satisfied with what they heard.
"It's not our kids. Take a look at the big picture. It's the drivers and the company," said parent Debi Dack.
Others seemed to think the meeting was part of what's needed to fix the problem that many say shouldn't have degraded to this point.
"It's a step in the right direction. We'll see what happens," said parent John Jako.
Also Thursday, the bus supervisor in question, Heidi Mullin, said she has video that provides "context" for the incident.
Mullin's attorney released the following statement to 24 Hour News 8 Thursday evening:
"Ms. Mullin would like everyone to know she has cooperated with all authorities involved. She has given a full statement to the police and shown them the video in her possession. Her lawyers have made copies of the video and have delivered it to police. She will continue to cooperate as she has nothing to hide.
"She sincerely believes the video gives a true context to the events on the bus and it is her hope the video will help clarify the situation for the police.
"She would like you to know she has discussed releasing the video the media with her lawyers and they have decided not to at this time. They believe the proper forum for the video right now is the police department as there is an ongoing investigation. Additionally, there are many children depicted in the video and we are trying to maintain their privacy."
After the incident, Mullin was terminated from her job with the private bus company contracted by Galesburg-Augusta Community Schools, Auxilio Services.
Records from Mullin's previous employer Portage Public Schools show she has a history of losing her temper.
She declined to talk directly to 24 Hour News 8 earlier this week.
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