Several times a week, you can find a fleet of compact yellow buses leaving the Chatham bus garage. Bus drivers, wearing safety vests, are steering along highways and bumpy country roads delivering food to students in need during the school closure.
Darci Ordway, president of the 50-member Chatham Central School District Transportation, said her union members are delivering to any family that has requested assistance. Initially, deliveries were to students on the free and reduced lunch program, but as more requests come in regularly to the district, they are all being met, she said.
“Our dispatcher and transportation manager adjust the routes every day,” Ordway said.
Teams of a bus driver and an aide make deliveries to individual homes using a “knock and drop” routine to maintain social distancing guidelines.
“The kids are happy to see us and the parents are ecstatic to see us,” Ordway said.
Food service workers at the elementary, middle and high schools prepare sandwiches and snacks, adding juice and fruit, for lunch. Cereal and milk are provided for breakfast. Meals are put in boxes and labeled according to which bus route they will be sent on. Two days’ worth of meals are delivered every other day.
“There is a sense of teamwork like no other,” Ordway said. “We’re so grateful to know kids are being fed.”
Because of her involvement with the union, Ordway said she is honed to the concept of teamwork, adding that the Chatham local union teams rely on NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist Pam Melville, a member of the Professional Staff Association.
“She has been with us every step of the way,” Ordway said “She’s reviewed all the memorandums of understanding, she’s in meetings with the superintendent, she’s checking to see we’re in line. She’s played a very critical role in all of this.”
“The question since Janus is ‘What do we get from the union?’” Ordway said. “This is what you get from your union. They protect us at every turn.”