MERS BOE to Discuss Bus Accident Tonight

To see what action the Board takes in light of last weeks' bus accident and arrest, or to voice your opinion on the matter, come out to their meeting tonight.

The Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District Board of Education is having their public meeting tonight at at 7:30 p.m. Among regular business, the Board will be discussing the recent bus accident involving Kristy Tufte, a district employee who was , something which was discovered after .

All 37 children on the bus were uninjured, accounted for, and sent off to school. Tufte, 34, was arrested by police for having 3 outstanding bench warrants and a suspended drivers’ license. Upon learning of Tufte’s arrest, district Superintendent John J. Marciante Jr. immediately terminated her, Board Member Dotty Porcaro said at Wednesday's Town Hall meeting.

The bench warrants stemmed from two traffic violations out of Englishtown and Woodbridge, where Tufte failed to appear in court. And the third bench warrant came out of Freehold for failure to appear in court for a summons issued for alleged shoplifting at the Lord & Taylor department store located at Freehold Raceway Mall.

According to , when a driver’s license has been suspended or revoked, the Motor Vehicle Commission informs the Criminal History Review Unit, who then informs the district and categorizes the individual as “ineligible for employment”. In this case, the letter from the Criminal Review Unit was received by the district and signed by a district employee, but never placed in the employee’s folder. Therefore, no action was taken.

“It was just very unfortunate circumstances that the letter was signed for and the letter never got into proper hands, and all of those things have to be fixed,” Porcaro said.

Manalapan Mayor Susan Cohen informed the public that the Township Committee has no jurisdiction over the Manalapan-Englishtown Regional School District Board of Education, in accordance with New Jersey law. 

The Executive County Superintendent requires all district employees to have an updated status report in June of every year. “There’s policies involved here, and policies have to change,” Porcaro said.

Marciante recommended quarterly status updates of all drivers, but Porcaro recommends monthly updates to ensure that this does not happen again. Porcaro said that she will approach the Board tonight and ask that the district begin doing monthly checks.

“Unfortunately in this case, the letter did not get received by the proper person and she slipped through the cracks, there’s nothing we can do about it,” Porcaro said.

If you wish to make a public comment on this issue, please come to Pine Brook School tonight at 7:30 p.m. for the Board of Education public meeting.

anonymous May 29, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Ms. Pocaro states, "Unfortunately in this case, the letter did not get received by the proper person and she slipped through the cracks, theres nothing we can do about it." Really??? Didn't someone sign for the letter from DMV??? Why did that someone merely place the letter in the employees personnel folder without taking action against the employee?? Sounds to me theres a coverup to protect the person that did sign for the letter and didn't take further action. It's time to hold someone accountable Ms. Pocaro--stop the damn excuses, children could have been killed with this woman from hell. I can't wait for an election time--Ms. Pocaro must go!!!
sgmbh May 29, 2012 at 01:50 PM
By the way, what is the timeline for all of these warrants? Was it after we lost our police dispatch in town? Or before? If the MPD had a listing of township employees, in addition to people who work with children, etc., when a warrant is issued, somebody should be checking those lists. If we had dispatchers, that could have saved 37 children from the trauma of running off the road, at the hands of an alleged thief, and law breaker. Just a suggestion....
Jim Sage May 29, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Sounds to me all agencies involved, i.e. the MVC, and the state police did what they had to do. Its the BOE that failed. The person that did not take the appropriate measures should be held responsible. Seems to me someone is being protected for failing the children's safety. Ms. Pocaro's statement is weak. I don't hear her saying we will find out who is responsible. Ms. Pocaro, it sounds like employees other than the bus driver need to be terminated.
Lauren May 29, 2012 at 06:28 PM
If anyone has a camera we should film the meeting. The township said they did not have an agreement to with the MERS B of Ed. Interestingly, we have no problem in filming the high school meeting.
Lauren May 29, 2012 at 07:48 PM
In reading this Patch artice I saw that Mayor Cohen informed the public that " the township committee has no jurisdiction over the MERS District Board of Education, in accordance with state law". After talking with the Finance Dept today who told me that we sent 51 million last year to the B of Ed, the Mayor and the Mayor of Englishtown need to be more involved, attend, input to what goes on over there. If there is such a law, then she should publish it for all to read. If there is no accountability, then we should look at taking our tax money and sending our kids to private schools. Who needs all this aggravation of not knowing if our children are with safe people. I bet if Mayor Cohens grandchild was on that bus, she would have looked at it differently
Jim Sage May 29, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Lauren, I have to respectfully disagree with Ms. Cohen, whom I know, and feel is a good mayor. When school budgets are defeated, they are sent back to their respective municipalities for further reductions in educational services. Therefore, the towns have jurisdiction. However, this year changed for certain municipalities such as Manalapan-- because they no longer vote on their budget, unless the school budget exceeds 2% from the previous period. But like I said in an earlier post, someone has to be held accountable for this egregious failure. The BOE was quick to give out the bus driver's name; however, they never gave the name of the BOE employee that opened the letter with the important information about the bus driver's past. Had the information contained therein been acted upon, this accident would have never occurred.
George Hartigan May 29, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Jim, I'm going to agree with Mayor Cohen's statement. The Township committee has no authority over the local school boards when it comes to day to day operations. The local BOE's are responsible to the State Department of Education, as Mayor Cohen points out, by law. Intervening on a failed budget is something totally different and apart from the autonomy the board has from the township.. Lauren to answer your question about the money given over, it is the responsibility of the local government to collect all taxes. In this case Mayor Cohen is correct. This was a personnel decision by the BOE and had nothing to do with the Manalapan Township Committee. It would be very nice to have the BOE reach out to the town in an effort to work together for the betterment of our children. By the way, how have you been Jim? Haven't seen you at the Grille yet :).
Jim Sage May 29, 2012 at 08:38 PM
George, I have been there. Just missed you the times I have been there. Good burgers! Jim
Nancy Gutman May 29, 2012 at 09:04 PM
How is it possible for this to happen? It is unexceptable and deplorable. I put my child on a school bus every morning and expect her to return home unscathed and safe. I would hope that you would feel the same! Whomever is responsible for allowing this person to be employed as a school bus driver is just as responsible as the person driving the bus. There is no excuse!!!! How is it possible that this person could possibly "slip through the cracks"!! are you kidding??? You all know that this was a huge blunder. Thank God that none of the children were physically hurt.
Tx May 30, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Follow the paper trail, whose friend is the bus driver???? then put the pressure on that person. There is to much "that person is a friend of mine and a good fella, give him the job.
Jacob Ullman May 30, 2012 at 03:08 AM
The county prosecutor already knows who signed for the letter. Why don't we do something more constructive like spend time with our kids instead of being on the Internet. If they don't take care of it by the end if the week then we should rethink which state and federal agencies we want to get involved.
Jacob Ullman May 30, 2012 at 04:49 AM
I am personally getting tired of hearing from the Manalapan committee of what they can't do. If they do not want to change the status quo and will not fight what is wrong in our community, then they should resign. All they do is have the administrator read resolutions that have become a joke and you can't get a straight answer about anything since the Asst. Administrator has to translate the question for them. The apathy at town hall is overwhelming.
BigPapa May 30, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Is anyone going to say who received the letter, and what actions are/were taken against the employee who "placed it in a file". My child was on that bus and will continue for a number of years. I think all of us parents have the right to know who is the other part of the disconnect was.
Nancy Gutman May 30, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Mr. Ullman, I felt that I needed to express my opinion on this issue on the internet, because, I was unable to attend the meeting in person, since I was home taking care of my family. Very rarely am I on the internet! I do not have the time, however, I felt that this issue demanded my attention. I expect my child to get on the bus in the morning and return to me unscathed and safe. I do not accept the this person just "slipped through the cracks" . There should be no such cracks! This women was responsible for 37 children and whom ever is responsible for employing this person should also be just as responsible.... I am very happy to live in Manalapan and have my child enrolled in this wonderful school system. We are very fortunate to have the outstanding teachers in our school system, they are the BEST! All I ask is that we keep our children safe. Thank you....
Sarah May 30, 2012 at 11:02 PM
BigPapa, Call the county prosecutor who has that information and is investigating. If they refuse to tell you, as a parent with a child on the bus, have your lawyer call. You may have grounds for a civil lawsuit or group lawsuit regarding this mess so you should consult with an attorney. First visit, usually no charge, confirm with whoever you call. Good Luck
BigPapa May 31, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Thank You Sarah, I will do just that and publish it to all concerned. Who knows what else might be uncovered?!
anonymous May 31, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Sarah, If you ask any rep from the county prosecutor's office for information--especially info while under investigation--they will not give it to you.
Sarah June 03, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Does anyone know where the busdriver is? She had 3 bench warrants for not showing up in court before. Why would we think she would show up for this? Someone missed the boat allowing her to be out on bail without first serving some jail time.


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