Wednesday, July 3, 2024

New Brunswick Auditor General's 2024 Annual Report Gives Dept. of Education A Failing Grade in Pupil Transportation

NB Auditor General Report 2024
Our Van Angels group has spent the last 16 years advocating for the best and safest available student transportation here in Canada. 

We now find ourselves shocked to read the N.B. Auditor General, Paul Martin's scathing report on the current status of student transportation in that province

It is particularly concerning that his stats show serious non-compliance in maintenance and inspection of school buses, plus inadequate strategies in place to endure sufficient staffing and qualification levels of all school bus drivers. 

Overall, the report revealed a serious lack of oversight mechanism in the Department of Education

It seems the N.B. Dept. of Education has already forgotten the horrific crash of January 12, 2008 involving the Bathurst High School boys' basketball team: The Boys In Red. 

One of the main contributing factors in this terrible tragedy was an ill-maintained and aging school- owned 1997 Ford E350 15-passenger van. Seven young teens and the coach's wife died that dark, icy and stormy night. Both the investigation by Transport Canada and the RCMP accident reconstruction and post-collision inspection concluded that the poor mechanical and physical condition of the Ford van would not have passed a pre-collision inspection due to brake issues, misaligned worn all-season tires and a rusted body.  Also, cited in the investigations were, driver error and fatigue as well as violations of hours of driving in a commercial vehicle and up-to-date trip long entries.

So, once again our precious children are being put at risk for no other reason than N.B. Dept. of Education 's entire chain of command does not have "effective systems or processes to monitor and ensure compliance with legislation and departmental policies relating to  pupil transportation",   which highlight school bus maintenance, inspections and sufficient recruitment of qualified school bus drivers as per the Auditor Generals Audit.

Currently, under the Department of Education legislative and departmental policies related to student transportation are already in place as listed.

The Department
- establish policies and guidelines
- assist in interpretation of acts, regulation and policy
- provide support and expertise to districts - implement safe and efficient pupil transportation

District Education Councils
- develop district policies that are consistent with provincial policies
- ensure provincial policies are followed at the district
- ensure pupil transportation is managed according to the needs of the pupils and the resources of the school district

- ensure that provincial policies are followed in schools
- ensure that transportation of pupils to and from school is done safely

We are concerned by the weak and vague responses by the Department of Education on the twelve recommendations made by the Auditor General. The report includes such words as explore, review, and discuss, terms which carry no weight as far as we are concerned. 

Our Van Angels group seriously questions why they do not enforce the policies and regulations that are already in place and be accountable for their responsibilities. The safety of our children should and must be a priority.

2024 New Brunswick Auditor General annual report on Student Transportation

June 13, 2024 CUPE School Bus drivers respond to the Auditor General's report

Bathurst High School Tragedy by Richard Foot 2016;article/bathurst-high-tragedy