drivers do on their school’s social media channels—and even on LinkedIn. For example, Ellison has a “Kudos” box. He pulls two names at monthly meetings, and gives them a choice between two prizes. “It’s surprising how many peo- ple opt for me driving their route rather than going to lunch,” Ellison said. “They enjoy visiting with their stu- dents. I got a lot of positive feedback from posting that on LinkedIn.” Another way that Ellison celebrates his drivers is by

collecting swag from trade shows. Along with gift cards, he’s rewarding his drivers for helping each other or their students. “I spend around $700 on gift cards at the be- ginning of the year. They are $10 cards, and I do things like put one in a coffee cup that I got at a trade show. It’s a small price to pay, considering what my staff does for each other and our kids.”

an email saying, ‘Hope you feel better.’” DeForrest reported that North East ISD’s superinten-

dent appreciates student transportation, because he used to be the department’s supervisor. “Unlike most superintendents, he understands how the transportation department works.” Matt English is on his ninth superintendent in the tiny Anamosa, Iowa, School District. “I’m not a ‘yes’ man. I do what’s best for the students and the drivers,” said English. “I firmly believe that transportation directors need to get out there and see the driver’s perspective.”

Encouraging Older Drivers to Stay Shields had a number of drivers turning 70, which

in Oregon, means the CDL must be renewed annually. Some of the drivers didn’t want to go through this more rigorous process.

Transportation directors need to get out there and

see the driver’s perspective.” — Matt English, Anamosa School District in Iowa

Don’t Throw the Driver Under the Bus All of the transportation directors STN interviewed

were firm in their belief that drivers are happier if they know that their supervisor has their back, when it comes to parents, other administrators and school principals. The consensus was that while transportation manag-

ers must notify parents that they are going to take care of a particular complaint regarding their children’s bus ride, they are also going to support the driver whenever possible and appropriate. If the driver made a mistake, the consequences are the same for everyone. “There must be a sense of accountability,” said Shields.

“I have their back. Just like in a real family, you’re going to protect one another. I handle parents and other ad- ministrators professionally. But if a principal calls and rips into my dispatcher, I may call them or their boss and say, ‘This is not how we handle things.’” Cox said the industry is changing. Many principals and other administrators are being placed in charge of transportation, but it’s a job they aren’t qualified for. “Several of them have called me for advice, and I told them that they are tackling the department like it’s a school. I tell them to go ride a bus and see what the drivers do. Also, transportation is family oriented. If we notice a driver has an issue, we ask what’s wrong, and what we can do to help. In the schools, they often send

42 School Transportation News • JULY 2019 Fortunately, the district recently acquired four vans. The

drivers can opt to be certified van drivers, and/or they can drive on trips. “This is building momentum,” says Shields. “We have four van drivers and four trip drivers.” English has found that because of the family atmo-

sphere created by just 16 drivers, his retirees come back. “They may retire, but we have four or five people who have come back to drive,” English says. “They are part of our community here.”

Kids are the Real Bottom Line Herbert Hill, director of transportation at Muscogee

County School in Georgia, feels that because today’s students require more time and attention, drivers must be able to recognize emotional concerns and family challenges of their students. It helps to motivate stu- dents from their own life experiences. Hill noted, “The real challenge for districts is finding drivers who make a positive impact on student’s lives.” Perhaps another challenge for transportation directors

might be creating the positive atmosphere that gives drivers the incentive to work long enough to have that positive impact on their students. A bus driver’s work can be more than just a job, and a positive atmosphere can permeate the children’s lives as well. ●

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