Driving Excellence causes controversy with certificates: School threatened to revoke many certificates, DMV addressing issue case by case

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Josh White

Senior Brandon Carla is pictured taking drivers education through Bell Auto Driving School, which is the school that works through Schreiber.

Tessa Peierls, Assistant News Editor

A controversy erupted in December surrounding several Schreiber students taking driver’s education courses outside of Schreiber.

In past years, students have taken driver’s education through Driving Excellence, a company associated with Portledge School, rather than through Bell Auto Driving School.  However, this year several students did not receive certificates of completion upon finishing the course.

Mr. Roy Shepard, the owner of Driving Excellence, sent in forms to get his students’ certificates.  Out of the ones who submitted for a certificate, 99 students were rejected by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The DMV’s reasoning was that there was not proper proof that these students had completed the mandatory program that the state requires for students to receive the insurance deduction and earlier license.

Junior Elana Israel explained why she chose Driving Excellence over the program offered through Schreiber.

“I chose the company because you can choose your own times and I knew of a lot of people who had used them before,” said Israel.  “During driver’s education, I loved the company so much.”

The revocation spurred controversy that got students, parents, lawyers, and state officials involved in court.  Their goal was to try to get students their certificates without having to retake the class.  Lawyer Mr. Arnie Herz explained the concerns of the DMV.

“DMV has a legitimate concern and mandate to ensure that only properly educated drivers get licenses,” said Mr. Herz.  “They already know that at least one kid received a Certificate of Completion of Driver’s Ed that never took the course.  They need some level of comfort and proof that your child did fulfill the driver’s ed requirements.”

Although some students had not taken their driving exam yet and just had their certificates revoked, other students were in danger of losing their junior licenses.  Israel spoke of her annoyance with the situation.

“I was really annoyed since I took the time out of my summer to finish Driver’s Ed,” said Israel.  “I also took my road test and passed so I had my juniors license when I got the letter saying my Drivers Ed was invalid”

One of the parents’ goals was to halt the license revocation process.  Students like Israel had already received their junior licenses, and parents wanted to sort out the issue before any final decisions were made.

However, some options are being looked into by Driving Excellence and the DMV in order to legally restore the certificates.  One considered possibility was to have the students take a condensed session of “make-up” classes.

Assemblywoman Michelle Schimmel also worked on resolving the issue, and to make sure that those who completed the course receive their certificates. Israel responded early to the situation.

“I will either have to retake driver’s ed my junior year, which is why I took it over the summer, or wait until I’m 18 to get my license,” said Israel.  “There are also some people fighting for people to get their certificates so there’s still a chance that I might receive mine.”

As of now, each student is being evaluated on a case-by-case basis.  Most students have had their Drivers Ed certificates restored, but several evaluations are still ongoing.