Via NY Post: City school-bus driver Sumatie Kalladeen’s scoldings terrified a little girl to the point where she was too afraid to ride the bus. The city Department of Education fired Kalladeen — but not before she racked up 37 complaints since 2001, seven of which were “substantiated,” records show.
She was suspended at least twice before, once after leaving 24 kids and teachers behind on a field trip, and once after she was arrested for assaulting her husband.
That a driver with so many offenses could remain behind the wheel for so long illustrates the city’s lax and ineffective disciplinary system for school-bus personnel, insiders charge.
The DOE’s Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT) has gone too easy on some bad bus drivers and attendants because it caters to the school-bus companies it contracts with to hire the workers, one OPT investigator alleged.
“They make sure the bus companies don’t lose too many drivers due to disciplinary decisions,” the investigator said.
The OPT worker said a seasoned supervisor who tried to get rid of lenient investigators was stopped by his boss. DOE contract officials even pressure investigators on behalf of the bus companies, he charged.
Making it worse, the number of bus investigators has dwindled from 12 to five since last summer, and each one struggles with more than 200 open cases at a time.
Kalladeen denied wrongdoing. “To my knowledge, no one was crying,” she said of the little girl.
In another disturbing case, attendant Patricia DiBenedetto was accused of throwing a boy off the bus before his regular stop — and later using a racial slur. “He’s a “troublemaking n—-r,” DiBenedetto told the kid’s mother when asked why her son was abandoned, records state.
The city Department of Education suspended DiBenedetto, but she kept her job.
DiBenedetto generated a dozen complaints for “obscene language.” Last May, she rang a school’s exit bell for 30 to 40 seconds — so long that administrators thought it was an emergency. The principal described DiBenedetto as “very aggressive and angry with the children.”
The Department of Education insisted all was done by the book. “All bus drivers involved in misconduct were appropriately disciplined,” a DOE rep said.