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Lack of bus to Richmond County alternative school costs parents

Saturday, March 9, 2013 4:46 PM
Last updated Sunday, March 10, 2013 1:34 AM
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Lonnie Padgett pays $400 a month in gas for his son’s lapse in judgment.

Clarence Daniels has to get a ride from a neighbor to get to Richmond County's alternative school, so he goes there only three days a week. His unemployed mother, Gailer Baity, says it's hard to find gas money.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Clarence Daniels has to get a ride from a neighbor to get to Richmond County's alternative school, so he goes there only three days a week. His unemployed mother, Gailer Baity, says it's hard to find gas money.

When a student started taunting and hitting Dillon Padgett on the school bus last fall, the 14-year-old pulled a protractor from his backpack and threatened to stab the bully.

The threat was enough to take Dillon out of Pine Hill Middle School and into the Tub­man Education Center Alternative Program – a good 20 miles from his McBean home – for the rest of the school year.

Because the Richmond County school system does not provide transportation for students assigned to the alternative program, families have to become creative to get their children to the Walton Way campus.

Tubman Principal Wayne Frazier said transportation issues keep many students from attending at all and put an added strain on families who need the most help.

“I have students who are not coming to school because of transportation problems,” Frazier said. “In order for us to be effective to get these children academically and behaviorally to the next level, out in the streets is not the place to help them. If they’re not in the building and they’re not here, we can not give them what they need to be successful.”

Clarence Daniels, 17, of Hephzibah, can only make it to Tubman on Mondays, Wednes­­days and Fridays, when he hitches a ride with a neighbor who works at the nearby University Hospital.

Having been unemployed and looking for work for more than a year, Daniels’ mother, Gailer Baity, said it’s difficult to come up with gas to drive the 60 total miles it would take to drop Clarence off every morning, drive back to Hephzibah and pick him up in the afternoons.

“My son did something and he got in trouble for it, so there should be consequences,” Baity said. “But I would like to see them have transportation for students who try to take advantage of a second chance.”

Carol Rountree, the school system’s director of student services, said the lack of transportation at Tub­man is not so much a financial or logistical issue but has more to do more with the code of conduct rules. Transportation is a privilege for students in the school system, but if they violate the code of conduct, that privilege is lost.

“The alternative school is a second chance for (students) to continue their education at a different setting,” Rountree said. “It is true that the students have lost rights when they were suspended and one of those rights is … transportation to school.”

Frazier said transportation creates problems for about 80 percent of the roughly 150 students who attend Tubman. Students come from all areas of the district and
enter the program at various points in the school year.

Though transportation has never been offered in the alternative program, Richmond County Board of Education member Barbara Pulliam said the district should create a bus route for the alternative program with a handful of stops across the district. Because the small population of Tubman students is spread across the county, there could be one stop for the south side, one for Hephzibah and one for west Augusta, she said.

“We’re an educational institution, not a penal institution,” Pulliam said. “These kids don’t have a job, they don’t have a car, so you’re saying if they can’t get there they don’t get their education. That’s wrong.”

She said she requested the issue be added to the board’s
committee meetings Tuesday.
The lack of school-provided transportation has forced Tyrone Jenkins to change jobs in order to get his daughter to Tubman from their home on the south side.

He said he quit his morning job with FPL foods for a night job with Sizemore Jani­tor­ial Services to be available to drive his daughter to school and pick her up in the afternoons.

“It’s been tough for me, but it’s what I have to do,” Jenkins said.

Padgett is also making adjustments. When he gets home at 7:30 a.m. from his night shift at Kimberly Clark, he stays awake to take his son 20 miles to Tubman.

By the time he gets home, he fits in about four hours of sleep before driving another 40-mile round trip to pick his son up about 2 p.m.

“It’s wearing me out,” Padgett said. “It’s getting to the point where I can’t afford it anymore … My son made a mistake. How long are they going to make me suffer?”

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yeahisaidit 03/10/13 - 06:57 pm
Where is the compassion???

I don't want to attack anyone individually, but you are a bleeding heart!! I see this crap every single day!!!!! I work my butt off to pay for all these parents to sit home and spit out kids left and right while I have to do whatever I can to make ends meet!! I'm sick of paying for everything just because people are too lazy to get out and do for themselves!!! I made mistakes in the past and guess what??? I am dealing with that and not blaming anyone else nor looking for an easy way out putting it off on other people!! I'm not talking about criminal ,but I got myself into some credit card debt that I, NOT ANYONE ELSE, but I am repaying!!!! I'm not looking for someone else to come along and GIVE me money that I spent! I went through some financially hard times and had to pay for things the only way I could. Sure I'd love to build a house, but at this point, because I am taking responsibility for my past, I cannot do that at this time. I've learned my lesson, and this is the only way these children and parents will learn their lesson.

Darby 03/10/13 - 08:38 pm
@ CobaltGeorge..."I have given you the first downer....

and I never classified you as a bleeding heart individual."
George, I will graciously accept your "downer" in the spirit in which it was given. I will try to convince you in future posts that I am about as liberal as Attila the Hun.

My post was motivated by my contempt for the way we waste so much in/on our school system and just felt that if some were diverted to getting those hoodlums to school, it would be cash that couldn't be otherwise frittered away on meaningless, mindless boondoggles.

I would rather take a sharp stick in the eye than be classified a liberal. Bleeding heart or otherwise. That really hurt!

mllange 03/10/13 - 09:44 pm
So let me get this straight,

So let me get this straight, Lynn7044 says:
"If you are going to provide buses for the kids who are attending the magnet school which is a choice then you should provide buses for the kids at the alternative school as well."

So you are comparing those students who attend magnet schools, who work very hard for their grades, who are the best of the best..... to those who draw weapons on each other, could care less about school, have no respect for authority, adults or anyone or anything else. So let's take away the buses for those students who made RIGHT choice, because those who made the WRONG choice can't have any either. It sounds like a whiny first grader, "but he got more than me, but his cup is more full than mine, but he got a piece of candy why I can't I have one."
Give me a break. These children made the wrong choice and therefore they should have to suffer the consequences. I completely agree with JRC2024, Ms Daniels needs to make her son work to pay for gas.

Watermedic 03/11/13 - 08:27 am
I will bet that in the school

I will bet that in the school handbook it is written that if a student is sent to the alternative school, the parents are responsible for transportation.

I will also bet that the students and parents have signed an acknowedgement of familiarization of those rules.

Bottom line is they knew ahead of time that if they did something stupid and got caught and sent to Tubman, they had to find transportation there.

Also, most of the students there were actually expelled from their primary school and given the opportunity to attend the alternative school instead of having to repeat the same grade the next year.

Darby 03/11/13 - 01:03 pm
@ Watermedic...

Would I be correct in assuming that you are a betting man??

itsanotherday1 03/11/13 - 01:26 pm
It seems to me that the

It seems to me that the parents should get creative and carpool. Perhaps the school could facilitate them getting in touch and working out a plan. Maybe one parent runs bus service for 3 kids in the morning and a different one in the afternoon. Maybe that mom with no car could pitch in a few dollars for gas. Maybe one parent that doesn't work a regular job and has a minivan could haul 6 back and forth with the other 5 parents paying for the gas, plus wear and tear.

Bottom line: The parents need to feel some pain for their child's transgressions.

millymilly 03/11/13 - 04:36 pm
That's actually a great Idea

That's actually a great Idea itsanotherday1. Sounds like one or two parents who may have a larger vehicle, could turn this into some sort of business venture. Monthly fee from each parent to pick up their child to and from school. It's a win/win. One (or two) parent(s) become employed and the others get what they want, transportation for their child to school.

redapples 03/11/13 - 05:29 pm
No sympathy here either. I've

No sympathy here either. I've had one of my own children make the wrong choices and he and I suffered through to solve the problem. It was not easy and it plain sucked, but I wanted my child to learn the hard way the consequences of his behavior. Sometimes some tough love can go a LONG way. As for the all caps above, get a little "netiquette" - some of us may have actually read your rant if you had not been shouting.

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