Earlene Scott has been a school bus driver for the Richland School District One in South Carolina for 34 years, and her career has culminated in much dedication, success and recognition. She is representative of the half-million school bus drivers nationwide who rise early in the morning and sometimes drive well into the evening to provide safe transport for students in their care.
Scott told STN she decided to become a bus driver in 1980 because the hours seemed convenient for her as a mother of then-young children.
“I had small children and could not afford to pay for daycare. With the passion I have for children, I then researched the school districts and found it would be feasible with time and family,” she said.
Keith Terry, operations manager for the district’s transportation department, said Scott is a unique individual with an impressive dedication to her job. He spoke with STN recently about Scott's impact on the district during the past three decades.
“She’s a genuine individual with a heart of gold. The countless hours that she puts in are just crazy. We have to force her to report her time! But her answer always is, ‘I’m not doing this for the money’. Having someone like that who just does everything from the heart, where can you find someone like that?” he said.
One notable feature of her tenure as a bus driver is her flawless driving record, as she has been accident-free for her entire career.
“She goes 34 years accident free! I mean, with all the maniacs driving out there, and no accidents?” said Terry.
Scott says her safety record comes from a careful abiding of laws and procedures as well as educating the students who ride the bus.
“I always follow procedures to include adhering to the posted speed limit in areas," she stressed. "Secondly, I work patiently with my children and their parents to educate them on school bus safety."
Terry added that Scott’s contributions to student safety and well-being extend beyond the bus.
“I have known for Ms. Scott to serve as a foster parent for some of these children off the bus routes. That’s just taking it to a different level. It doesn’t just stop on the bus, doesn’t stop with safety. Every bus driver should have that same mentality,” he said.
It was this passion for making a difference in the lives of the students she works with that led Scott to turn down a promotion within the transportation department.
“My proudest moment was when I was selected as Interim Operations Officer and then offered to become full-time. It meant to so much to me. The administration felt that I was confident and strong enough to uphold the enormous responsibilities that come with this territory. I later declined because I did not want to lose helping save our children from the negativity in society,” she told STN.
Terry emphasized that he believes that this level of concern for the kids on the bus is the key to a successful transportation career.
“A lot of people really don’t know what it takes to be a school bus driver. They have no idea what goes on out there. I would like for everybody to know that you can have a successful career as long as you care about the children, and you have a reason to be there for them,” he said.
In addition to her work as a school bus driver, Scott has been a state-certified Third Party Commercial Driver’s Tester since 2002.