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‘This didn’t have to happen’



Published: Tue, November 13, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

photo

An Austintown schools crossing guard stops traffic on Idaho Road at Woodhurst Drive on Monday. Last week, Darcy Fletcher, another crossing guard, was struck by a vehicle on Idaho. She suffered a fractured skull and remains hospitalized.

By Denise Dick

denise_dick@vindy.com

Austintown

A school crossing guard struck by a vehicle after school last week is recovering in the hospital, but her family and friends worry about the safety of others who do the job.

Darcy Fletcher, 43, suffered a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain, according to her twin sister, Dana Kosco.

Fletcher, who had worked as a school district crossing guard as well as crossing-guard coordinator for about two months, was working Thursday afternoon when she walked into Idaho Road to cross children.

An SUV had stopped in the road, but a van behind it struck the back of it, which then struck Fletcher — throwing her into the air and onto the pavement, her sister said.

“They heard her head hit the ground,” Kosco said.

A police report was unavail- able Monday because police administrative offices were closed for the Veterans Day holiday. Police Chief Bob Gavalier couldn’t be reached.

Some of Fletcher’s friends are selling T-shirts to raise money for her. Kosco, who also works in the school district, is trying to organize some other fundraisers.

Fletcher lost her job at General Motors a few years ago and has no health insurance.

Fletcher spent two days in the intensive-care unit before being transferred to a regular room. Her sister said she’ll likely be in the hospital for a couple of more days and then be transferred to a rehabilitation facility.

“She’s holding her own,” Kosco said. “She’s talking a little bit and eating a little bit.”

But she’s still in a lot of pain. “This didn’t have to happen,” she said.

Dan Bokesch, the school district’s curriculum director, supervises the crossing guards and also knows the family. The twins and their brother were students at the former Austintown Middle School when Bokesch was a teacher there.

“They’re wonderful people, a wonderful family and very much part of the Austintown community,” he said.

Superintendent Vince Colaluca said Fletcher took her job seriously and did it well. He urged drivers to be watchful while traveling through the area where buses and children are leaving from or arriving to school.

“We just please ask people to be more cautious,” he said.

Bokesch agreed. “People have to be a little more cautious and a little more patient,” he said.

If there’s an alternative route drivers could follow during school dismissal and start times, it may be advisable for them to take it, the superintendent says.

Becky George worked as a crossing guard but quit Oct. 31 because she thought it was too dangerous.

“I was gone for a whole week and then Darcy got hit by a car,” George said.

She returned to the job Monday to fill in while Fletcher recovers.

“Today I had a guy go around me when I was standing in the middle of the road,” George said, who added she was holding a stop sign and a flashing baton.

Other motorists travel through the school parking lot to try to avoid the buses.

“People tell us we’re making them late for work,” George said. “Find a different way or leave earlier is what I tell them.”

She said many motorists also speed through the school zone.

“There’s a lot involved in being a crossing guard,” George said. “It’s stopping traffic, getting the kids safely across the street, getting the buses out. It’s a lot more than people think.”

The mother of four says her family is frightened for her safety now that she’s returned to the job.

Rochelle Tharp, a friend of Fletcher’s and Kosco’s, organized the T-shirt fundraiser. Shirts are available for $10 by calling Tharp at 330-792-7551, Tammy Johns at 330-951-8989, or at Jones and Associates where they are being printed.

The shirts read “Team Darcy” with a school bus on the front and the letters of Fletcher’s first name forming “Drivers Aware Recognize Crossing guards & Youth” on the back.

Tharp’s 10-year-old son was on his way home on the bus Thursday and witnessed the accident. He was shaken up but has recovered.

The congestion is caused by buses for two schools leaving at the same time because of the district’s construction project, she said. Many people don’t pay attention while traveling through the area, and many don’t know the laws, she said.

“People don’t think they have to stop when they see a bus,” Tharp said.

Meanwhile, counselors were at a Salem Elementary School on Monday after a student was struck and killed Friday night while walking along East State Street.

Olivia Thompson, 9, “was a vibrant, energetic person,” said Cindy Viscounte, principal of Reilly Elementary School.

“We all loved her and will miss her dearly.”

Todd R. Roberts of Washingtonville turned himself in to Salem police Saturday. He’s charged with felony failing to stop after an accident.

Viscounte said school officials started planning their response to Olivia’s death during the weekend. Staff and counselors met students Monday morning as they got of the school buses.

Students have a lot of questions, and some just wanted to talk about their good memories of their classmate, the principal said.

“There’s been a range of emotions and a range of questions,” Viscounte said. Counselors will continue to be available for as long as students need them.

“Our hearts are very heavy,” she said.


Comments

1whitesabbath(738 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

Take away driving rights for 6 months first offense, they will learn fast...

Prayers for the family

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2furball(3 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

How awful for Ms. Fletcher. I know it's been said before, but there should be higher penalties for speeding through school zones. They double fines in construction zones, are they higher in school zones?

One side note, not to diminish how tragic this is, but people who are contributing to the fundraisers should be aware that since this occured while she was on the job, all of her medical bills should be covered under Ohio workers' compensation. I'm sure her family will still need help with other expenses, but I don't want people to be misled by the comment about her not having health insurance.

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3Lifes2Short(3867 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

""Bokesch agreed. “People have to be a little more cautious and a little more patient,” he said.""

Hard for them to understand when they have "NO COMMON SENSE"! Heartless drivers, I wonder if there kids were there if they would change there tune.

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4AtownParent(558 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

It is not only crossing guards and it is not only on Idaho Road. Raccoon is just as dangerous for kids and for the crossing guards. One child that I know of for sure was hit as he was walking home. The school needs to do something about this and maybe APD needs to help out.

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5Mommabear(2 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

I am appalled by the lack of urgency being demonstrated by Mr. Superintendent.....the parents of Watson and Frank Ohl have been asking for action concerning the safety of our children for months! I witness it daily. My children have almost been hit 3 times this year. The unveiling of flashing sticks on Monday will not remedy the situation! I urge all tax payers to attend the next board meeting. If we have the monies for new buildings....why do we not have money for books and safety concerns?

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6anothermike(202 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

"Brown" is correct, especially traffic laws in rural areas....hit and run seems to run rampant in the Valley also. Little or no investigation. Some locals may not have a traffic division or the funds to "man" it, but the State shouldn't be "looking out the window" when these terrible incidents occur.....I will continue to pray for the victims....

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7atownmama1(1 comment)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

First of all to furball... if she is a contract employee (as many part time school employees are today) she may not be covered under workers compensation laws.

Also to the Vindicator... Why has it taken you nearly a week to cover this story?

To Austintown schools... parents have been asking since before school started to have an officer on duty and onsite for arrivals and dismissals. Why have you continued to ignore our pleas for the safety of our children and fellow taxpayers? Since this incident there has been dropoff or pickup with an APD officer on site. Why?

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8AFgrad(11 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

I hate to be the one to say this but raising the penalties in a school zone will not stop someone from doing this. Another thing. The comment that drivers don't know it's against the law to pass a stopped school bus. Your kidding right? The message is right on the back of the bus in big letter's. STOP state law. It's sad this happened but everything that has been suggested to help stop this from happening will not 100% prevent it.

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9nojimbo(219 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

This is a trainwreck that's been waiting to happen. First, take every student of any age anywhere in Austintown and put them on one large gulag, er, campus. Next, keep same streets/traffic flow from 1960 when traffic was less than half of current volume. Combine with goofball drivers too lazy or stupid to take another route or wait patiently. Shake well. What do you expect?

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10harpercm(9 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

My local middle school and high school both have police officers at arrival and dismissal. They are paid with funds from the PTA/Foundation. The county will not take an officer off of his beat/duty for this. People tend to take an officer a bit more seriously than a civilian. Donations and support of the PTA/Foundation have increased because parents see the importance of the officer.

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11revolution(2 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

Its about time some one nails this school dist. to the cross! The concerns of this nature has been voiced to the school officials for some time now. Some one should research how many accidents there really have been over the past several years!!! Kind of amazing how my phone just rang with a recorded message on the schools concern about the childrens safety....Hmmm; first time I have heard any type of concern from this district. And as far as the comment for workers comp; Ya ok don't go there.

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12anothermike(202 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

furball sounds like less than human, and by the ignorant post, most of us are assured of it. Whether someone has health care insurance or not is of no consequence when an accident occurs. Just love jackasses who want to blame the victim.....good grief!!

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13Ytownnative(985 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

The school busses don't always use their lights to drop off or pick up kids I've see them on many occasions use their liights so they or another school bus can turn in traffic. I avoid that area anytime during school hours they have too many people driving those big SUV's who have no idea how to drive them.

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14IslandMike(676 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

Makes me wonder if the driver that rear ended the vehicle was yapping on the cell phone or texting.

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15ytowhoh330(89 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

Prayer she will be okay. Being a recent victim of a hit & run, yes crossing with the green light & in a crosswalk. I know her pain. I hope they know who did this. I'm glad in my case a witness got the plate # & the police got her. So see you in court sweetie!

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16mrsbksr(1 comment)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

This traffic dilema has been lurking over the district since last spring. The school system had all summer to try to work out safety concerns. Either the time was not used wisely, or those involved did not have the correct expertise to take on this task. These women...parents themselves....work for a pitiful hourly rate to make sure our children get to their school buildings as safely as possible. We need to empower those school employees by making the working conditions measure up. Mind you now, the info I am sharing next was not confirmed by me, but in talking to other parents one stated that the APD officers who do sit in their parked cars during start time and dismissal, are only paid to be there until 3pm. Why not pay them the extra hour to be there until dismissal is complete? And if A-town schools are paying the off duty APD officers, then why isn't traffic being directed by them? Officer Toth has shown a genuine respect and concern for our children through the DARE program and he would be a great consultant on this issue. I too get frustrated with the traffic pattern....or gross lack thereof....by the schools. But, one, you will never cure a jerk with or without a drivers license of his lack of common sense and disregard for public safety. Two, we as members of the Austintown community need to stand up to the school district and fight for the safety of our children and those employed to aid in the effort to keep them safe. It starts with us, the community. I have noticed though that most of the time, it takes an unfortunate incident, or threat of lawsuit for the school boards ears to open up. That negates the notion of public service and to me states that the bottom line is more important than character or a good reputation. Lets pull together. It's time to take back our school district and remind the board who they serve! As our Frank Ohl sign says, our schools are bully free......but are they also free of a sense of obligation backed by common sense and forethought? After this incident, I have to think that maybe they are.

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17AustintownMom(10 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

People, PLEASE...follow the law, drive carefully, and help protect our children and our school employees. I may blame a lot of things on our BOE, but people's carelessness is not their fault. The Austintown Local School District does not control stupidity on the roads of this community. It is your own responsibility when you are behind the wheel of a car to be patient, aware, and follow the rules of the road. It made me sick to read that people pull around a crossing guard in the street holding a Stop sign. Really?! Your work schedule or dental appointment is not more important than someone else's life. My son is one of those students, and my sister in law is one of those crossing guards. They have more of a right to be on that road at certain times of the day than you do!

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18daviddaich(6 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

For months, we have been trying to work with the ALSD administration (Vince Colaluca) and Board of Education to resolve obvious and serious safety problems with the way they transport our children. From many meetings, discussions and e-mails with these officials, two central themes have become very clear. First that Vince Colaluca’s ego rules the Austintown Local School District. He is so intent on being right, even in the face of overwhelming reason and logic showing that he’s wrong, that he’s willing to risk the lives of the children of Austintown and the employees of ALSD to not have to admit that he and his transportation supervisor (Colleen Murphy) made some mistakes and fix them. Second, that the Board of Education of ALSD (with the exception of Harold Porter) provides virtually no oversight or supervision to the administration. They didn’t even have a transportation safety policy in place until we brought that fact to their attention, after which they hastily threw something together which supported their already unsafe policies.

Aside from the obvious driver inattention issue that caused this accident, the root cause is that the dismissal and exit plan for the Watson/Frank Ohl area is unsafe. I hear stories constantly about the utter chaos happening there daily. It's unsafe, because the administration won’t devote the effort or funds necessary to do it properly because they have higher priorities to spend our money on. Vince actually told me on several occasions that if I found extra money in the budget, he’d spend it on many other things before fixing any of the safety issues that abound in this district. He did this in front of witnesses including 2 BOE members.

If you want to join in the fight fix this broken thing, visit our Web site www.safebusing.com or visit our Facebook group http://www.facebook.com/groups/atownb.... We’ve exhausted our attempts to reason with these people and are now preparing to force them to fix these issues.

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19suzabelle1(1 comment)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

I'm disgusted that ALL the comments are critical.

I worked with Darcy at Lear and know you well enough to know she is a fighter, but prayers are needed right now.

Right now, the main concentration should be on Darcy and her well being. PLEASE people. Do what you can to help Darcy.

Things will sort themself out on the other things.

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20Mommabear(2 comments)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

@Suzabelle.....you cannot be serious! Of course we are concerned about Darcy. As for, "things will sort themself out on the other things." What is the appropriate time table for you for this to happen? How many more people need to be injured or killed? Have you ever witnessed the conditions that the staff and families are dealing with at the Watson/Frank Ohl dismissal? Critical? You better believe I am critical. I am being critical of a Board Of Education that has had these safety issues in front of them since September! If our BOE would have taken our pleas seriously, perhaps I would still be greeted with Darcy's smile every day!

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21concernedmom(1 comment)posted 1 year, 5 months ago

@Suzabelle... WE ARE doing what we can to help Darcy, can you NOT clearly see this? Really? Had the BOE taken the necessary steps , we would not even be having this discussion, and Darcy as well as all other accidents that were "hidden" would have never taken place. Darcy is the whole idea here, now she is a face we could add to our repeated cries for help and safety. READ the article, there are already fundraisers in place, shirts were made to honor her and support her, her name will be a safety slogan in households throughout the area. If you are so concerned by all means donate to her recovery, as for the "things" , why in the hell do you think this happened?? "THINGS" were ingonored for far too long. Darcy is proof that the district had an obligation to its students, parents, taxpayer, employees, and community! I think its about time the truth be unveiled, who is the driver? what happened? texting,drinking, etc. Time to open up all truths and clean up the school system that once made Austintown Proud! Darcy, we are praying for you and god speed on your recovery!

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