Haverhill Schools’ Begins Search for New Transportation Supervisor Amid NRT Bus Delays

Haverhill Superintendent Margaret Marotta is on the hunt for a new supervisor of transportation—a move officials insist was in the works long before bus delays and safety concerns marred last week’s opening of school. Posting a job description online Tuesday, Sept. 3, the school department said the new supervisor of transportation would work year-round to “assume responsibility for the comprehensive overall planning and scheduling of transportation of all eligible bus students, and all aspects of districting and redistricting student attendance boundaries.”

The position reports to Marotta for a salary determined in accordance to the administrators’ bargaining unit salary scale, the job posting said. According to school department spokesman Shawn Regan, the school system’s most recent supervisor of transportation was Timothy Rooney. Lorraine Turell, a six-year Haverhill Public Schools employee who worked closely with Rooney, assumed the role of interim transportation director when Rooney resigned in April 2019, Regan told WHAV.

NRT’s McCarthy Apologizes for Haverhill Bus Snafu as Parents Worry for Student Safety, Demand Policy Change

North Reading Transportation’s John McCarthy faced Haverhill families and members of the School Committee Thursday night, owning up to a communication breakdown that resulted in students missing school and left parents fearing for their safety. During a three-hour meeting that catered to an overflow crowd listening in both English and Spanish in the City Hall auditorium, the CEO heard from more than a dozen concerned citizens about how this week’s bus delays impacted them. A similar refrain rang true: Safety is paramount for Haverhill parents. Several, including a school nurse and crossing guard, spoke about how children had to walk as many as two miles to catch the bus. Some went so far to say that traveling busy city stretches of Route 97, River or Main Streets, for example, were akin to having a death wish.

Many New Haverhill Teachers This Year; Debate Rages Over Pay or Ordinary Turnover

There are many new faces within Haverhill schools this year. Depending on who you ask it is because of poor working conditions and inadequate pay or ordinary turnover. Haverhill Public Schools report 81 out of 703 certified teachers and seven administrators have left since the beginning of the calendar year. It was not reported how many of those retired, but some estimate about half of that total. Haverhill Education Association President Anthony J. Parolisi says he was surprised to find 72 new faces at new teacher orientation last week, and more teachers are still being hired.

Whittier Tech, Northern Essex Win Skills Grants From State Sale of General Electric HQ

Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School and Northern Essex Community College are among 45 institutions across the state sharing in $12 million to buy the latest technologies to educate students and expand career education opportunities. Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Labor Secretary Rosalin Acosta and other state officials made the announcement yesterday at Worcester Technical High School

“Skills Capital Grants were originally designed to help students in vocational programs learn about the most up-to-date equipment, however, it has since evolved to help a broader population of students be ready for our Commonwealth’s knowledge-based economy,” said Polito. Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School plans to use $409,225 in its Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration program. According to a statement, students will be prepared on residential, commercial and light commercial equipment to gain experience with gas heat, oil burner technologies, rooftop heating and cooling units, ice machines, refrigeration and freezer units, ductless high-efficiency heat pumps and air conditioning systems.

Northern Essex Community College will use $185,136 to launch a new program in Robotics and Automation Technology in collaboration with Greater Lawrence Technical School and Lawrence High School. The partnership supports adult workers as well as high school students enrolled in the engineering and Advanced Manufacturing vocational programs.

Schools can also now apply for an additional round of Skills Capital Grants, totaling $15 million, that will be awarded in the fall.

Union Says Haverhill Teachers Gaining Breakfast Duties Requires More Discussion

It’s nice to be asked. That’s the message the Haverhill Education Association is sending to the school department over elementary teachers now having to oversee student breakfasts. Teachers’ union President Anthony J. Parolisi says labor laws require the district to negotiate extra duties before imposing them on covered employees. “We’re not opposed to feeding kids breakfast, but doing so the way the district designed is a fundamental change in some members’ working conditions,” Parolisi tells WHAV. “We prefer them to be teaching and not cleaning up breakfast spills.”

Parolisi says Superintendent Margaret Marotta promised teachers would be included in breakfast planning, but he didn’t find out until a week ago Thursday.

Fiorentini, Marotta Conduct Focus Groups at Schools: Kids Admit to Bus Delays, Call Breakfast ‘Awesome’

Three days into Haverhill’s new school year, students at Tilton Upper and John Greenleaf Whittier appear to be settling in well—depending on which youngsters you ask. WHAV tagged along Thursday morning as Mayor James J. Fiorentini and Superintendent Margaret Marotta visited the city schools to assess the bus situation, and while responses were mixed, things seem to be getting better since Tuesday’s opening day. At the brand-new Tilton Upper School on Primrose Street, fourth graders in Mr. Holt’s class reported few commuting problems while sharing their opinions during circle time. In Ms. Maggiocomo’s class, students took a break from watching educational videos to let Fiorentini and Marotta know that while rides mostly ran on time, music played on their buses was “too loud.”

Over at JG Whittier, seventh graders were much more candid about the bus issues that plagued the city. In an accelerated math class, five students raised their hands when asked if they had problems on Tuesday’s first day of school.

NRT CEO to Attend Haverhill School Committee Meeting Thursday Amid Ongoing Bus Issues

John McCarthy, the CEO of Haverhill’s new bus provider, North Reading Transportation, plans to attend the city School Committee meeting Thursday night amid back-to-school delays and other issues Superintendent Margaret Marotta and Mayor James J. Fiorentini jointly deemed a letdown. As parents across the city voiced concerns of student safety and missed free breakfasts, school officials quickly vowed to rectify the issue Fiorentini said was a “fiasco.”

“To say that this was an inauspicious first day for this new bus company would probably be the understatement of the year,” he wrote Tuesday night on his personal Facebook page. “I am extremely unhappy with the way that the first day was handled.”

The state’s largest transportation provider, NRT buses 110,000 students daily and recently purchased Coppola earlier this year. Haverhill has 8,000 public school students. In an interview with WHAV Tuesday morning, Marotta said an early bottleneck involving an elementary school bus that ran nearly one hour late impacted the rest of the day’s routes.

Updated: School Supt. ‘Disappointed’ by Bus Snafus; Otherwise, Haverhill Schools’ Enjoy ‘Smooth Opening’

Editor’s Clarification: An earlier headline and lead paragraph failed to fully convey school Superintendent Margaret Marotta shares parents’ concerns over first day bus delays and confusion. In an email to administrators and School Committee members, Marotta concluded, “I am disappointed, as I am sure you are, that these bussing issues marred what was in many ways a smooth opening of school.” Unfortunately, the latter statement wasn’t released to the media until early evening. Haverhill Public Schools Superintendent Margaret Marotta is considering Tuesday’s first day back to class a “smooth opening,” despite bus delays that parents also called a “disaster” and “complete failure.”

At issue ahead of the Aug. 27 opening bell: New bus provider North Reading Transportation. As students should have been settling into their classrooms and meeting their teachers, many were still on city sidewalks waiting for pickups, parents tell WHAV.