NEW YORK CITY — The executive responsible for handling the city’s public school bus system was let go on Friday amid ongoing trouble with a planned GPS system and Medicaid reimbursements, New York Daily News reports.
New York City Department of Education (DOE) Chief Transportation Adviser Kevin Moran fired Alexandra Robinson, the executive director of the agency's Office of Pupil Transportation, effective immediately, according to the newspaper.
Robinson was named in an investigation, conducted by the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District, last month, that stated that the New York City DOE mishandled a $9 million GPS tracking system contract with vendor Navman Wireless and failed to collect Medicaid reimbursement for transporting special-needs students.
In response to a rough start to the 2018-19 school year, when thousands of parents complained about missing or delayed buses, according to New York Daily News, the New York City Council passed several laws, one of which requires the placement of GPS systems on all school buses, as School Bus Fleet previously reported. (Additionally, a major winter storm in late 2018 caused buses without GPS transporting students with special needs to be stuck in traffic for eight hours.) However, the new GPS system reportedly had significant problems at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year and a hotline that was supposed to provide real-time information to parents on the location of their child’s bus didn’t work unless the drivers turned on the GPS devices, the newspaper reported in September.
The report recommended that Robinson be terminated for mismanaging the project, that her former executive assistant, whom Robinson hired as a project manager for the GPS project, be disciplined for neglecting problems with the project and mismanagement of the billing procedure, and concluded that overall the project “lacked oversight, accountability, communication, and employees with the technical abilities to oversee a large-scale management project — that ultimately failed when no usable data was retrieved for Medicaid reimbursement.” (Read the investigation report, obtained by New York Daily News, here.)
Richard Carranza, the schools chancellor, had previously fired School Support Services Chief Eric Goldstein, Robinson’s supervisor, in September 2018 for the school bus service problems that occurred at that time, and a faulty background check system, New York Daily News reported at the time. (Moran had taken over for Goldstein.)
However, regarding Robinson, sources told New York Daily News that the responsibility to submit claims for Medicaid reimbursement was outside the parameters of Robinson’s job description. Several sources indicated, according to the newspaper, that Robinson “is a scapegoat for high-level failures to hold the city’s many private school bus vendors accountable for multiple missteps going back years.”
The Navman contract is set to expire in December, according to the newspaper. Meanwhile, as SBF previously reported, the New York City DOE has partnered with ridesharing company Via to launch a new school bus routing, tracking, and communication platform, in addition to installing GPS systems on all of its school buses.
Will Mantel, a spokesman for the New York City DOE, told New York Daily News that the agency is beginning a search to fill the position “and will continue to focus on safely and efficiently busing approximately 150,000 students every day.”