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JCPS has limited control over bus driver hires

Jefferson City Public Schools confirmed to ABC 17 News Monday that Jarrad Vandergrift, 37, of New Bloomfield, was shop manager employed by First Student, the transportation company that is under contract with the district.

Vandergrift was charged Thursday with three counts of felony child molestation, three counts of statutory sodomy and one of statutory rape.

The first of the seven different crimes allegedly occured as early as 2009.

“We can confirm that we have initiated the process to terminate Mr. Vandergrift’s employment,” said First Student spokesman Chris Kemper. “We also are working with the authorities to support their investigation. Given that this is an active investigation, we are unable to comment further.”

JCPS spokesperson Ryan Burns said Vandergrift was not a bus driver.

“Our understanding from First Student is that as a longtime mechanic, [Vandergrift] very rarely, if ever, drove a bus for them,” said JCPS spokesperson Ryan Burns. “Nonetheless, we are glad to hear that First Student is taking this matter seriously despite the fact that he did not interact with students.”

Because Vandergrift was not listed as a driver for the district, Burns said the district would not comment further.

According to the district’s contract with the bus company, First Student is responsible for hiring and firing employees, including drivers.

The contract also states that JCPS can require that the company reassign an employee if the district deems that employee unfit for the job.

Also contained within the personnel section of the contract is a requirement that all employees pass a criminal background check and do not have any child abuse allegations or convictions.

No part of the personnel section of the contract states that JCPS has any required screening process of its own prior to First Student hiring an employee.

The contract, however, does require the company to provide an ongoing safety program, a preemployement drug screening, an initial training curriculum, in-service training and an overseeing manager.

The contract expires in 2020 and Burns told ABC 17 News the district is considering other options.

“The district is planning to go to bid,” said Burns. “We are also evaluating the feasibility of bringing operations in-house.”

Burns would not confirm why the district is making that consideration.

The full contract can be viewed by following this link.

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