The Tunkhannock Area School Board confirmed Thursday night that a district bus driver was suspended this week after she admitted to “disciplining” a child about to exit her bus.
Tunkhannock Area Superintendent Frank Galicki said bus driver Juanita Bolthouse was suspended for the rest of the school year.
Parent Amy Docalavich was at Thursday’s school board meeting and said the driver should have been fired because of what happened Tuesday, May 10.
Docalavich said on Tuesday afternoon her teenage daughter saw Ms. Bolthouse whose bus had just brought the boy home from Roslund Elementary School tell the boy that instead of going into the house he should do push-ups on the side of the road in front of the bus.
The mom said she confronted the bus driver, who she claims called the behavior “discipline.”
Docalavich said that within a matter of minutes she called the elementary school, frantic about what had happened, worried about her child’s safety, and then was shocked the next day to find Ms. Bolthouse driving the same bus route Wednesday morning.
At Thursday’s board meeting, parent Kelly Gioconda said her daughter also was on the bus driven by Mrs. Bolthouse.
She told Superintendent Frank Galicki, “I’m a parent who’s concerned for all the children on the bus. Your response to this incident to just suspend really disgusts me. If this was one of your children, you’d react differently. I am disappointed in you as a parent.”
Galicki said it was a personnel matter and he couldn’t really address the matter further.
Members of the board acknowledged the tough spot that Galicki was in, but also empathized with the parents.
Board member Lori Bennett said, “We hear you loud and clear and it will be followed up. This frankly is not Mr. Galicki’s decision to make. He will make a recommendation to the board and we will make that call.”
Board member Robert Parry went further. Parry serves as transportation committee chairman for the board and said, “I guarantee you this will not be swept under the rug. This will be thoroughly investigated, and I think it will be handled appropriately.”
He added, “Unfortunately we can’t operate on the same speed that you’d like us to because of this thing called due process where everyone gets their fair day in court.”
Board member William Swilley also told both parents, “You hold our feet to the fire. We promise you we’ll get to the bottom of this.”
Bolthouse made news in 2012-13 when she pleaded guilty to animal cruelty after investigators found two neglected and starving horses on her property in Nicholson Township.
In other business Thursday, the board named board member John Burke - who was not present at the meeting - to a one-year term as board treasurer beginning July 1.
It was noted that the 2016-17 budget would be placed before the public at its May 19 meeting for a 30-day review period.
Under the superintendent’s report the resignation of John Belcher as assistant boys volleyball coach, head girls volleyball coach and volunteer assistant wrestling coach was noted as was the appointment of Brittany Searfoss as Mill City full-time custodian; and appointment of Jennifer Seward RN as a substitute nurse.
Conference attendance was approved for Summer Frisco (ESL Standards in Action), William Bevan (Pa. Strength & Conditioning Clinic), and Karin DeLancey (PTAP 2016 Annual Conference).
The meeting got going earlier than usual as the elementary principals wanted to recognize their third and fourth graders who had achieved accelerated reading levels (see separate story).
Art teachers Debbie Donowski and Barb Sick also recognized student participation in the Rossetti art contest which recently had art on display at the Schulman Gallery at Luzerne County Community College.
High School principal Greg Ellsworth and teacher Jason Keone also acknowledged students who had recently placed in the Skills USA state competition.
In the employee spotlight, Kathi Felker was recognized for stepping in during the middle of the semester to serve as principal at Evans Falls and Mill City Elementary Schools.