As the school year draws to a close, we began to think about all the issues and challenges student transporters faced this past year. Particularly school bus drivers. It isn’t an easy, stress-free job, and it doesn't pay enough, which makes the good bus drivers out there all the more valuable. Consider them precious cargo along with the students.
Baca and other drivers recently have been attending school board meetings to urge board members for a raise, yet that doesn't affect the way she performs her job. When she’s behind the driver’s seat, she greets each student as they board the bus. She’s quoted in the article saying the best thing about her job is working with kids, who sometimes approach her for a hug. “They tell us not to hug ’em, but sometimes they come up and hug me. What am I supposed to do?”
Then there is Randy Mondragon, a 10-year bus driver for the same district, who was quoted in the article saying that driving is the easy part of his job — everything else is not. Yet despite his complaints and concerns about his pay, those things don’t alter the fact that he likes his job and his passengers. “If you enjoy kids and have a nurturing sense, this is a really good job,” said Mondragon in the article.
In Oregon, Bremerton school bus driver Scott Collette recently celebrated 20 years driving for the district. And after all this time he still learns the names of all of his young passengers and greets them one-by-one as they board the bus.
His normal routine consists of patting the dashboard once all the students are accounted for and the bus door is closed. One of the students asks him why he does that. “I’m thanking the bus before we go,” Collette tells the eighth-grader. Another student is quoted saying she’s never had a bus driver like Collette take the time to learn all the students’ names. To help prevent any bad behavior or bullying, he keeps the radio on while driving because it helps settle the kids.
In addition to driving the bus, Collette, who is also union president of the district’s chapter, volunteers with juvenile courts as an advocate for abused children. “I’ve always felt I needed to protect the little guy,” he said in the article.
Twenty years is great, but 43 years is exceptional. That’s how long Maureen Davis has been driving a school bus, with 40 of those years driving for the University Place School District in Washington state. Davis was 27 and a mother of three when she decided to become a bus driver. The article states that some of the district’s current drivers were once student passengers in Davis’ bus.
Sadly, Davis (AKA “Queenie,” as she is known at the district bus yard) is retiring this year at age 70. She said it is the right time for her to retire, but she won’t forget the memories and connections she made along the way. Such as a foster child she bused one season during summer school and regrettably lost touch with at summer’s end, or coaches who would request Davis to drive their teams during athletic competitions because they believed she brought them good luck.
Davis was quoted saying she’s really had no problems on the bus to speak of. Her theory as to why? “The kids relate to how you respect them,” she said.
Here’s to another school year, school bus drivers. Thank you.