Questions Follow Suspensions

    In less than two weeks this month, the East Hampton School Board suspended five of its employees — three bus drivers and two mechanics. At the board’s Feb. 5 meeting, members voted unanimously to retroactively suspend two of the district’s bus drivers, effective Feb. 1. Two weeks later, in a Feb. 15 note sent by Richard J. Burns, district superintendent, to parents and staff, he announced that an additional three transportation department employees had been suspended for an indeterminate period of time. The employees are being paid during the suspensions.
     “I want to assure that this action has no bearing on the past or current operational safety of our buses; nor is it related to any interactions between our students and our transportation staff,” Mr. Burns wrote. However, since the suspensions are a personnel matter, Mr. Burns declined to comment further.
    The district’s 32-member transportation department now employs 29 bus drivers. Some members of the school community are questioning whether, in the absence of five employees, the district will be able to continue providing adequate services once classes resume next week.
    Edmond Bletterman, who previously oversaw the department, retired in October. Since his departure, the department has lacked leadership, although Joel Freedman was designated head school bus driver. Those with whom The Star spoke indicated that squabbling among bus drivers has resulted, with senior drivers taking on additional trips — whether to field trips, sporting events, or athletic games — that pay more because of overtime. Nevertheless, questions persist.
    “As this is an ongoing investigation, the district will keep you apprised of any new developments which we are legally able to share,” Mr. Burns’s letter concluded.