School administrator apologizes for New London school bus incident

New London — A school administrator embroiled in a controversy that led to the reassignment of a bus driver last month has issued a public apology.

In an emailed statement, Kristina Jordan, executive director of school and family support services, apologized to the bus driver and the community for passing a bus on Sept. 18 in the parking lot of New London High School.

“As a resident of New London, a parent of a New London student, and an employee of New London Public Schools I am deeply invested in the well-being and progress of our community," she said. "In that spirit, I remain committed to my service to our students and our families.”

Jordan had come under fire from the local school bus drivers union after the incident in which Jordan, after passing the bus, had walked back to the bus to speak to the driver, Raymond Lange. The exchange between the two, captured on video, prompted the school district to recommend that Lange and his wife Evelyn, an aide who also was on the bus at the time, be reassigned out of the district.

The video shows Lange raising his voice at Jordan, scolding her for passing the bus and telling her to get off the bus after she had stepped on. He at one point threatens to call the FBI.

Student Transportation of America reassigned Lange to Groton two days after the incident.

While she was not issued a citation or fined for the incident, Jordan said she planned to donate $486 to the summer youth employment program at New London Youth Affairs.

Lange’s union has called for the district to reverse its decision and criticized Jordan for writing a letter to Student Transportation of America that indicates the order to reassign the Langes came from the Board of Education and School Superintendent Stephen Tracy. The union alleges it was a false claim and the school board has not said otherwise.

Tracy, who has backed the reassignment of the driver, also issued a statement that further clarifies his position.

“Kristina Jordan made a mistake in passing by a school bus that was stopped in the driveway at New London High School. She then did what anyone should do in such a situation — she pulled over, walked back to the bus and apologized for her error,” Tracy said in the statement.

“If she had not stopped to apologize — if she had simply proceeded past the bus as the two motorists ahead of her had just done — we would not be having this conversation, as the driver would not have been able to identify her vehicle,” he said.

The video of the incident shows two other drivers had driven past the bus, which was parked in front of the front entrance to the school. The bus, as Lange explained in a previous interview, was perpendicular to the entrance from Jefferson Avenue.

Tracy further called it a personnel matter “involving a valued district educator.”

“I have reviewed the situation with the driver, his supervisor and his union representatives. I have spoken with Ms. Jordan about it, and she has apologized. As a result, I have determined that no further action is required,” Tracy said in the statement.

A representative of the Langes’ union called for a public hearing on the issue.

“The Superintendent’s statement is not an apology, it is a sad attempt to dodge responsibility,” said Ben Phillips, a representative of the Connecticut State Employees Association, SEIU Local 2001.

“The attempted justification of Ms. Jordan’s actions by the Superintendent continues to misstate the facts of the incident and obscure the systemic process failures that have been allowed to happen on his watch,” Phillips said.

Raymond Lange referred questions to his attorney, Gordon Videll.

“I think an apology goes a long way but doesn’t make them whole. A real apology should also come with an offer to allow (the Langes) to come back to work in the district immediately,” Videll said.

Videll said that Evelyn Lange “just wants to get back to the kids that know her and are comfortable with her.”

A representative from Student Transportation of America declined to comment on what it considered a personnel matter but did issue a statement to remind residents that this week is National School Bus Safety Week.

“The theme this year is #StopOnRed to remind motorists of traffic laws that require them to come to a full stop whenever school bus lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended,” said Student Transportation of America spokeswoman Lynette Viviani in a prepared statement.

g.smith@theday.com

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