Heroes in School Transportation

<I>SBF</I> Staff
Posted on January 24, 2011
Bus driver Rosemarie Fullone used her instincts to help a lost student with Down syndrome get back to her family.
Bus driver Rosemarie Fullone used her instincts to help a lost student with Down syndrome get back to her family.

Fast actions as ventilator fails
Ron Rook and LaVay Calhoun
Litchfield Elementary School District #79
Litchfield Park, Ariz.

Quick thinking and effective communication saved the day when a student’s ventilator failed on a Litchfi eld Elementary School District bus.

On the morning of Sept. 7, the Arizona district’s transportation department was short on school bus drivers, so Ron Rook was moved from his regular route to a special-needs route. His aide was LaVay Calhoun, who is normally on that route. There was also a nurse, Andrea Powers, on board.

As the bus was stopping to pick up a student, Rook and Calhoun noticed some commotion in the back of the bus. Powers told Calhoun that they needed an ambulance because a 4-year-old passenger’s ventilator had stopped working. The boy has respiratory failure and uses a wheelchair.

Calhoun relayed the message to Rook. As the aide called 911, the driver notified dispatch of the incident and location.

While they waited for EMS, the nurse operated a bag ventilator. Rook stayed in contact with dispatch, while Calhoun stayed in contact with the 911 operator. And both of them worked together to keep the other students on the bus calm.

It took about seven minutes for EMS to arrive. Calhoun then notified the student’s mother, who came to the scene.

The EMS responders were able to restart the ventilator, and at the mother’s request, the bus team proceeded to transport the student to school for the day.

Jeff Walker, director of the district’s transportation department, which comprises 79 staff members and 64 school buses, said that he is exceedingly proud of how the team responded to the incident.

“They handled the situation so professionally, and their communication throughout the event was excellent,” Walker said. “I’ve been driving for over 10 years, and I don’t know if I could have kept myself together as well as Ron and LaVay did.”

Rook has been a school bus driver since 2008. Calhoun has been an aide since 2009.

The duo’s actions were highlighted in the transportation department’s weekly newsletter, and Walker said that he is planning an award for them at the department’s year-end barbecue, when honors from throughout the school year are presented.



Teamwork keeps autistic student safe
April Grubbs and Susan Smith
Marysville Exempted Village Schools
Marysville, Ohio

When Marysville Exempted Village Schools provided special-needs training to its school bus drivers and aides in August, administrators never imagined how great an impact it would make.

The training — which specifically addressed the needs of autistic students — helped an aide and driver control a potentially dangerous situation while they were transporting three special-needs students in September.

Driver April Grubbs and aide Susan Smith had picked up three students from a special-needs school and were taking them home when numerous accidents on the freeway and the resulting traffic congestion prevented them from getting off at the correct exit. The heavy traffic and break in routine caused an autistic student in the van to become agitated.

The student launched himself towards Grubbs’ seat while she was trying to maneuver off the freeway. He then kicked a van window, breaking it. Smith quickly intervened as the student attempted to lean out the window and touch the vehicles on the freeway.

“The driver and the aide just did a really excellent job of keeping everyone safe,” said Amy Morgan, director of transportation for Marysville Exempted Village Schools. “Had [the student] been able to get out of the van, he would have surely been killed.”

Smith was able to restrain the student. She and Grubbs quickly devised a game to calm him — they urged him to count stop lights until they reached an area that was recognizable to the student. Grubbs and Smith then pointed out familiar landmarks to help the student recognize his surroundings on the way back to his house.

“It was wonderful that they were able to get so creative,” Morgan said. “They just went above and beyond.”

“I’m so proud of them,” she continued. “All the training we’ve given them paid off because they knew how to utilize it. It couldn’t be more positive of a story. It had a wonderful outcome when it could have had a tragic one.”

In addition to autism-specific training, the district also provided several other special-needs courses for drivers and aides over the past school year. These sessions were led by a special-needs teacher.

“I’m so grateful that we did all that training with them,” said Morgan. “It just paid off in leaps and bounds.”



Quick thinking saves choking man
Belinda Johnson
Gwinnett County Public Schools
Suwanee, Ga.

Using CPR training from Gwinnett County Public Schools, bus driver Belinda Johnson was able to successfully perform a choking rescue procedure on an elderly man at her second job.

“I was glad I was there to assist,” Johnson says.

Before working as a bus driver for Gwinnett over the last 12 years, Johnson started her career in school transportation in Delaware as a school bus monitor. The incident at her second job was the first time she had to use her training to save someone, despite having worked in the industry for almost 15 years.

“With the continuous training that we are given each year from our Gwinnett County transportation department and through our safety and training program, I was able to help save the life of this man,” Johnson says.

While working at Sam’s Club this past Halloween, a customer approached Johnson and told her that her husband was choking. Johnson asked someone to call 911 and immediately began performing abdominal thrusts to clear the man’s obstructed airway.

“The customer at this time lost consciousness, and I had to assist him to the floor,” she says. “I worked with him for approximately 15 to 20 minutes, and after a few attempts, he started to cough.”

The man eventually regained consciousness and thanked Johnson for saving his life. The crowd that had gathered also expressed their appreciation for her unwavering efforts to revive him.

“I was exhausted,” Johnson says with a laugh. “But everybody was calling me a hero.”

In addition to being praised by the crowd that had gathered around her, Johnson received special recognition for her efforts from her supervisors at both of her jobs.

She currently transports disabled students for Gwinnett County Public Schools and won Bus Manager (the district’s term for bus driver) of the Year in 2004 for outstanding achievement.

In her spare time, Johnson focuses her efforts on helping and supporting the Children’s Miracle Network and the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Pediatric Hospital.



Instinct prompts help for seizure victim
Diana Goldwire
School District of Osceola County
Kissimmee, Fla.

Karen Strickland, director of transportation for the School District of Osceola County, says the employees at her operation are caring, compassionate and nurturing. Special-needs bus attendant Diana Goldwire personified these traits last January while she and school bus driver Debbie Sellers were on an afternoon route.

“Diana saw a man fall on the sidewalk and go into seizure, so she grabbed her gloves, got off the bus and went to assist him as he went into another seizure,” Strickland says.

Goldwire says she made sure the gentleman was on his side and she checked his airway to make sure it was clear.

“I spoke to him because I wanted to see if he was responsive,” she added. “When he came back from his seizure, I was speaking to him in English and he couldn’t understand what I was saying, so I started speaking to him in Spanish and that’s when he responded.”

Goldwire assured the man that he would be OK and stayed with him until EMS arrived. (Sellers called for EMS.)

Goldwire says that the emergency response classes she has taken through the school district’s transportation department and through the agency that she works at for her second job helped her feel confident that she could assist the gentleman, but it was instinct that prompted her to come to his aid.

“My youngest daughter had some issues with seizures around eight years ago, so when I saw him, what happened with my daughter came back to me and I just reacted — I knew that he needed help,” Goldwire says, adding that the man appeared to be homeless.

“That really got to me,” she says.

Fortunately, Goldwire learned that the man ended up being fine.

Given the nature of the employees at the School District of Osceola County’s transportation department, Goldwire’s actions that January afternoon weren’t surprising to Strickland — she says they are characteristic of the type of the person she is.

“Like Diana said so eloquently, it was just a reaction,” Strickland says. “She jumped off the bus and did what was in her heart — I think that says a lot for her.”



Chance meeting brings lost girl home
Rosemarie Fullone
First Student Inc.
Schaumburg, Ill.

Thanks to her instincts and an auspiciously blocked street, bus driver Rosemarie Fullone of Schaumburg, Ill., was able to help safely return a young female student with Down syndrome to her worried parents.

“I shouldn’t get involved sometimes, but my eyes were telling me that something was wrong here,” Fullone says.

After a charter had been canceled on the morning of Aug. 4, Fullone began heading back to the office and realized that her usual route was blocked.

Driving down a different street led her to find a young lady with Down syndrome walking alone on the sidewalk. Fullone’s granddaughter had been diagnosed with the same condition, so she decided to trust her instincts and find out whether the girl had been left behind by another school bus.

A quick call to the dispatcher confirmed that all the scheduled pick-ups and drop-offs had been made, so Fullone made a U-turn, only to find that the young woman was trying to wave down drivers.

“I stopped my bus, I got out of my bus, left my four-way flashers on, put my jacket on, and I walked over to her,” Fullone says.

The young lady was named Elizabeth and was trying to get to McDonald’s. “She just couldn’t change her mind,” Fullone says.

After speaking with her and looking at her ID, Fullone was able to get in contact with Elizabeth’s father, who happened to be out looking for her at the time.

“She just got out of the house and as her dad said, she’d never done it before,” Fullone says. “Her brother was right there behind him in another car.”

After the incident, Fullone received a heartfelt letter from Elizabeth’s family, as well as thank-you letters from her supervisor and from the president of First Student Inc.

“I think most bus drivers are very observant. People don’t realize it, but we are,” Fullone adds. “I don’t think it’s the high-tech things we’re using. It’s the people and how they’re trained.”

Fullone has worked as a school bus driver for more than 45 years and continues to enjoy working with children just as much as she did when she started in 1965, she says.



Passion for cheering up cancer patients
Dawn Hill-Fleury
Student Transportation of America
Milton, Vt.

School bus driver Dawn Hill-Fleury says she enjoys volunteering her time to help as many people as possible, but there’s one cause that’s especially close to her heart: helping the kids who attend Camp Ta-Kum-Ta in South Hero, Vt.

Each year, kids with cancer can take a break from hospital visits and treatments and go to Camp Ta-Kum-Ta for a week. When the camp was founded in 1984, there was a need for transportation services to get the kids from a local hospital to the camp. That’s when Hill-Fleury’s work began.

Officials for the company that she worked for at the time were approached by the camp. (Hill-Fleury has been a school bus driver for more than 30 years, the last eight of which have been for Student Transportation of America [STA].)

“They said they would love to help, thinking it would be a one-time thing, and it was so successful and the drivers enjoyed it so much that it’s continued for 26 years,” she says.

In addition to transporting the children every year, Hill-Fleury has served as the camp’s transportation coordinator for the last 12 years. In this role, she oversees the entire transportation operation, including making sure that there are enough drivers and buses to take the kids where they need to go.

“The drivers I recruit are all volunteer drivers who donate their time. I could not do it with out them,” she says.

In November 2009, Hill-Fleury was the recipient of an STA regional heroes award for her dedication to Camp Ta-Kum-Ta.

She was also nominated by STA Vermont Regional Manager John Sharrow for the company’s team heroes video.

“Dawn’s efforts for Camp Ta-Kum-Ta are just one of many,” Sharrow says. “She is very active in her church and the local government and is even a justice of the peace. The best example of her character was just a few weeks ago [in November 2010] when she learned of a driver from a nearby location who has a very sick child and needed some assistance. By noon on the same day, she had decorated a large carton and was gathering items for this employee, one whom she has never met. Dawn just loves people.”


Related Topics: aide/monitor, first aid/CPR, First Student Inc., Heroes in School Transportation, heroism, Student Transportation Inc.

Comments ( 1 )
  • Dave Bond

     | about 7 years ago

    Thats my neice

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