The award was established by the widow of the local businessman who volunteered countless hours, and likely money, to assist the district's Special Education Department. Each year a special education teacher or school staff member who goes above and beyond to touch the lives of students with special needs is chosen to be the recipient.
Thompson told School Transportation News the Parnell family includes a daughter with special needs.
“Ford is an outstanding driver,” said Christine Rutledge, manager of the local First Student operation. “He is dedicated to the students he transports, treating them with respect and compassion. We are proud Ford was recognized for his service, and pleased to have him as a member of our team.”
Thompson started driving for First Student in 2004, when a back injury ended his career in construction. He said he was surprised to receive the award because special education teachers and paraprofessionals are also eligible, and they must be nominated. Whoever nominated him remains unknown, but he noted "the most votes wins."
"I have nothing but good things to say about everybody involved with special needs at Minnetonka," Thompson added, including bus drivers along with the teachers, paraprofessionals and other staff. "Everybody has a part."
Thompson received the award during a ceremony May 10 in Minnetonka, which is located about 25 miles southwest of Minneapolis.