Video: New London superintendent backs decision to reassign bus driver

New London — The city’s interim school superintendent has upheld a decision to reassign a school bus driver and his wife, a school bus aide, because of an exchange they had with a school district administrator who had apparently passed a stopped school bus.

The union representing the driver and aide, meanwhile, has renewed its calls to reinstate the couple and reprimand the administrator.

School bus driver Raymond Lange, 61, and his wife, Evelyn, were reassigned two days after the Sept. 18 incident that occurred in the parking lot of New London High School and that involved Kristina Jordan, the executive director of school and family support services.

Raymond Lange said Jordan illegally passed his bus while he was stopped in front of the entrance to New London High School to drop off students.

Jordan stepped onto the bus and confronted Lange, who scolded her for passing the bus and repeatedly told her to get off the bus.

The exchange is captured on video provided to The Day on Tuesday by a person who requested anonymity. The Day has a pending Freedom of Information request for the video and documents related to the incident.  

When Jordan walked to the bus door, Lange can be heard on the video saying, “What do you want? Talk to the police.”

“You know what. You’re not parked in a place that, where people could see. I couldn’t see it when I came in,” Jordan replies.

“You couldn’t see the bus?” Lange said.

“No,” Jordan said.

“With the red lights and the stop sign?” Lange said.

“No,” Jordan said.

“Tell that to the police. Thank you,” Lange said.

The exchange continues with Lange raising his voice as Jordan takes a step onto the bus.

“Get off of my bus right now,” Lange said. “Please get off. I don’t know who you are.”

Jordan tells the Langes that she is the director of special education, that she is going to retrieve her badge and she will call Lange’s supervisor, Student Transportation of America Manager Irma Wilhelm.

“Please do,” Lange responds before threatening to call the FBI.

Jordan wrote a letter to Wilhelm the next day indicating the school board and superintendent had requested the reassignment.

“Please be advised that, effective immediately, the Superintendent and Board of Education has requested that the bus driver of Bus 34 and the aide be reassigned to another district,” Jordan wrote in the letter. “This action is a direct result of the incident on September 18, 2017, when he and the aide yelled at a district administrator, threatened to call the police and the FBI and demanded that the administrator get off his bus.”

Jordan did not return a call seeking comment.

Ben Phillips, a representative from the Connecticut State Employees Association SEIU Local 2001, said Jordan’s letter appears to contain false claims that the reassignment was requested by the school board and superintendent.

Interim Superintendent Stephen Tracy declined to say whether he knew about the incident before the letter was written and called it a personnel matter.

He did say he had reviewed the video and interviewed both of the Langes, Jordan and Wilhelm as part of his investigation into the incident.

“I talked to all of the people I could think of. Having done all that, I told the school board I thought the transfer was called for and would stand,” Tracy said.

Tracy sent a letter to members of the school board last week notifying members of his decision. School board President Scott Garbini said on Tuesday he supported Tracy’s decision. He declined to comment on whether he knew about Jordan’s letter.

Board member Jason Catala has said the school board was unaware of the incident or of the letter before a representative from Lange’s union showed up at a school board meeting and requested the Langes be reinstated in the district.

“The superintendent had no clue. The board had no clue,” Catala said. “Jordan was wrong to send the letter, and she should be reprimanded. At least she should pay the fine for passing the school bus.”

Tracy on Tuesday said that a public meeting was not the appropriate venue for the union to lodge complaints or publicly critique staff members by name.

The union reiterated its position in a statement Tuesday that called Jordan’s actions “an abuse of her position to cover up a traffic violation after she ran a flashing bus stop sign while students were departing the bus.”

The Langes were being punished for “asserting students safety,” and Tracy’s decision not to reinstate them “amounts to a whitewashing of both Ms. Jordan’s traffic violation, her false claim of acting at the request of the Board of Education, and is indicative of Dr. Tracy’s own failed leadership,” the union representative, Phillips, said in a statement.

“By failing to pursue further action, the superintendent is effectively giving a green light to this kind of behavior and the Board of Education should assert that this is not appropriate,” the statement reads.

Lange said Tuesday he was unaware of the superintendent’s decision and declined to comment.

He had said in a previous interview that he filed paperwork with the state to have Jordan cited for passing a standing school bus, which carries a $465 fine. The New London Police Department, however, is not aware of any complaint against Jordan, said Capt. Brian Wright.

g.smith@theday.com


Editor's note: The Day has cut the first one minute and 45 seconds from the provided video in order not to show the identities of the children on the bus.


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