Driver Dawn Lemaster helps her passengers with reading during non-travel time as part of Lake Orion Community Schools’ BusSTAR program.
LAKE ORION, Mich. — What started out as a program to help Lake Orion Community Schools’ teachers with reading to students has grown into a much larger effort that has had a positive impact on students, school staff and the transportation department.
BusSTAR (Supporting Teaching by Assisting in Reading) was developed by Director of Transportation Dale Goby, who wanted to bring together the district’s staff to focus on teaching students and helping them learn in a way that would enable the transportation department staff to participate.
“My background is education — I started out in teaching at a high school and university before I got into school transportation,” Goby told SBF in an interview. “One thing I’ve learned is that there’s a tremendous power among employees at a school system to facilitate change. It’s not just teachers or principals; it’s also in the support staff.”
Goby added that in talking with his operation’s school bus drivers, he found that some were already doing educational activities with their passengers, but the team wasn’t doing it in a very organized way. So, he took some of those activities and incorporated them as he was developing BusSTAR.
Under the program, drivers not only assist teachers in the classroom by helping students with reading, some also help out in the media center at the district’s high school.
“We even have one driver who goes to our special-ed center on Friday afternoons and she paints the teenage girls’ nails,” Goby said. “It really helps the girls’ self-esteem.”
In addition, many drivers have activities that take place on the bus, including “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?”, “Bus Cab,” “Bus Book Library” and “American Idol: School Bus Edition.”
“Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” is a quiz exercise that rewards students for correct answers to driver prepared questions during non-travel time. “Bus Cab” is another quiz program that is similar to the TV program “Cash Cab” and rewards students for correct answers to driver prepared questions. “Bus Book Library” provides books for students to encourage them to read while riding the bus. The last program — “American Idol: School Bus Edition” — utilizes the bus intercom system to feature students’ singing talents during non-travel bus time.
Drivers are asked to log their volunteer hours on a time sheet so that everyone can keep track of what they’re doing, and a portion of the operation’s monthly staff meetings is devoted to sharing some ideas on activities that drivers have found to be effective.
“Now, when we interview new drivers, I mention this program, and the expectation is that all of the new drivers will be participating in the program,” Goby added.
He also discussed the benefits of the program, saying that the more connections the drivers make with the professionals in the school environment — such as the teachers — the more the teachers understand the drivers and what they do. And the drivers see the teachers differently and have a better appreciation for what they do.
BusSTAR benefits students in many ways. One bus driver who participates in the program said that one passenger was afraid to read in front of others because he struggled with words. However, because the driver encouraged the student, he read in front of others on the bus and did well, which increased his confidence.
Driver Tina Tacey volunteers her time at the district’s special-education center and paints the girls' nails on Fridays.
BusSTAR also brings to light the dedication Goby’s drivers have to going above and beyond their job.
“What I find is that drivers are really humble about what they do and don’t want to be in the limelight, but my effort is to get them recognized for the good things they do,” he said.
Earlier this year, the district won the 2013 Pinnacle Award for Innovation in Business Management from the Association of School Business Officials International for the BusSTAR program. The district was also awarded $1,000 for the Lamp of Learning Scholarship Fund.