Island school officials turned to their lawyer this week to resolve the contract dispute with Island Transport Inc, which announced two weeks ago that it will end all student transportation services provided to the school.
Less than a month before the start of school, the All-Island school committee met Tuesday evening in executive session to discuss the matter with their lawyer, Matthew Tobin, of Murphy, Lamere and Murphy in Braintree.
Yesterday, Kriner Cash, Vineyard schools superintendent who participated in the meeting via telephone, said the school's attorney is currently drafting a letter to Island Transport outlining the school's position.
"We believe that Island Transport has breached its contract with us and we will be informing Island Transport through our attorney what we intend to do about it," said Mr. Cash.
Mr. Cash would not say what the school does plan to do.
While the school moves forward on the legal front, Mr. Cash said he is also planning how to proceed if Island Transport refuses to continue bus service.
"We are moving forward to ensure that we have buses and a comprehensive student transportation plan in place for the start of the school year that is safe, on-time, and staffed by fully-qualified drivers," he said.
Mr. Cash said he plans to meet with the Island Transport drivers in the next two weeks to discuss a school-managed transportation plan.
"I want to thank and commend all the Island Transport drivers for their excellent and reliable service over the years. I plan on meeting with the drivers in the very near future to determine if they would be interested in continuing to provide that excellent service to us in whatever capacity we determine," he said.
Yesterday, James Dario, president of Island Transport, said that he has not spoken with Mr. Cash, but that he is willing "to do whatever is necessary to make sure the buses are running on time for the start of school." However, he said he has no intention of providing that service unless the school agrees to a retooled contract.
Among changes, Mr. Dario wants the bus drivers to have the authority to determine snow days. He also wants Island Transport to be responsible for the discipline of its drivers.
In a letter to the editor appearing in today's Times, Mr. Dario also proposed transferring the overhead costs to the school, which Island Transport currently pays, and simply managing student transportation for $75,000 a year.
Under the current-year contract, the Vineyard schools, except Edgartown, which provides its own bus service, pay Island Transport approximately $1 million a year for bus service. Mr. Dario said that under his new proposal, Island Transport's profits would not be affected.
"This is absolutely not about money," he said.