Baldwin-Whitehall board fires transportation manager
It was the scariest day of her life, she said.
Amber Kustron waited more than 20 minutes longer than usual on Feb. 26 for her daughter, 7, to arrive home from school. The Baldwin-Whitehall school bus was no where around just before 4 p.m., when it normally would be dropping off her daughter, said Kustron, 32, of Baldwin Borough.
The youngster came walking down the street 20 minutes later, “with a strange man following her,” Kustron told members of the school board last week.
After meetings with district administrators and school board members, Kustron said she learned why her daughter was left off at the wrong bus stop. She also said that district administrators were not upfront in providing her with details.
“It greatly agitates me that I needed to play detective,” Kustron said.
The driver that day was district transportation manager Kenneth Pokorny, who was filling in as a substitute, Kustron said she learned.
The school board fired Pokorny, 36, of Jefferson Hills, in a unanimous vote on April 9. His last day was April 4. “My thought is that somebody didn't like me and that was just an excuse,” said Pokorny, who noted that during his tenure he does not know of anyone else being fired for dropping a student off at the wrong stop.
Superintendent Randal Lutz said Pokorny was terminated both because of the Feb. 26 incident and incidents that occurred after that led to an investigation by local police. Lutz declined to elaborate.
Baldwin Borough police charged Pokorny with harassment by communication via summons on April 12 after a resident reported on April 8 at about 11:50 p.m. that they received harassing phone calls from him. Police said they do not know Pokorny's motivation, but said no children were ever in danger.
Police and school leaders did not connect Pokorny's termination with the charge.
Pokorny said that is district protocol, never to identify a substitute bus driver to parents. Lutz said during an initial meeting with Kustron, his focus was looking at “where did the process fall short” and “not on the who, but on the what.”
“There was never a desire on my part to mislead in a devious way,” Lutz said.
In Baldwin-Whitehall there are 72 regular bus drivers, with 12 extras, transporting more than 5,000 students to 43 schools, over more than 1,000 miles each day, Lutz said. Mechanics and managers in the transportation department have commercial drivers licenses, in case they need to drive a route.
On Feb. 26, Pokorny filled in on a route for a driver who called off, Lutz said. Yet, the route – which had been changed earlier in the year – was never updated in the route book on the bus, Lutz and Pokorny said. Ultimately, it is the transportation manager's job to ensure the books are updated, Lutz said.
Kustron said she trusts the regular driver that transports her daughter to McAnnulty Elementary School each day.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.