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March 01, 2006  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Promoting the Good Work of Your Drivers

Parents and school administrators, among others, should know of the many success stories involving school bus drivers. Working with public information officers, distributing newsletters and nominating drivers for awards are great ways to grow awareness.

by Thomas McMahon, Managing Editor

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Reaching peers
A newsletter can be an effective way to promote your drivers and other aspects of your program to school administrators and teachers. At the same time, it can be an encouragement to the drivers themselves.

Brigden Summers, manager of Laidlaw Education Services’ Stockton, Calif., branch, publishes a bi-monthly newsletter that has traditionally focused on promoting safety. Over time, it has come to include coverage of incentive programs, bus service information and employee anniversaries. There is also a section called “Service Honor Roll,” which showcases compliments from customers. Summers says that parents and teachers often go out of their way to send him letters about their driver.

“What started out 10 years ago as a way to promote safety with my driving force has turned into a very positive public relations tool as well,” Summers says.

In the early days, Summers only received a few of these letters of praise for his drivers each year. But more and more people have found out about the section, and now there are often five “Honor Roll” items in an issue.

In a recent edition, driver Joe Hernandez was commended by the family of one of his passengers for his exceptional service.

“[Hernandez] is an excellent bus driver,” the family wrote. “Kind and also stern, he gets the job done and is always punctual.”

Besides distributing the newsletter within his operation’s ranks, Summers sends copies to contacts at the districts his branch serves.

Russell of Houston Independent School District stresses the importance of taking a proactive approach to educating peers about what your program is doing — to tell your story yourself rather than let someone else tell it.

“We try to send at least one success story each week to the superintendent and other administrators,” Russell says.

Fairport CSD publishes transportation bulletins and a quarterly newsletter, “The Steering Gear,” which cover goals, employee expectations, successes and other areas that the department wants to focus on.

“All of these publications are electronically sent to the ‘top brass’ at our district office and shared with our board members so everyone is aware of our standards and expectations,” Lawrence says.

Through efforts such as these, Lawrence notes, drivers and the transportation department in general have come to be well regarded within the district.

“Our administrators are very supportive, and teachers often talk with the drivers,” Lawrence says. “But years ago, it wasn’t that way. Transportation was always at the bottom of the ladder.”

Honorable mentions
Another way to recognize drivers is to give out awards within your operation or nominate them for outside honors.

At Weber School District in Ogden, Utah, driver Larry Crouch won the Employee of the Month in Education award, which is sponsored by Costco and is open to all employees in the 42-school district. In this case, Crouch was nominated by the family of a girl who had been scared to get on the bus and to go to school.

“Larry stepped off of the bus, asked her what was wrong and talked to her a bit,” says Monty Hadley, transportation specialist for the district. “When they got to school, he took her to class.”

Besides Crouch’s caring way with children, Hadley notes his professional appearance. “He always wears a shirt and tie when he drives the bus,” Hadley says. “He also works for the Chamber of Commerce.”

At Independent School District 196 in Rosemount, Minn., the transportation department honors all its employees with a “Survivor Banquet” at the end of each school year. The event is a potluck that includes the grilling of hot dogs, hamburgers and bratwursts. The focus is on rewarding employees, and at least one very important figure from outside the transportation department participates.

“We invite the superintendent, and he presents years-of-service awards,” says Transportation Supervisor Donna Zelinsky.

In New York, the Rochester Area Transportation Supervisors Association holds an annual Employee of the Year celebration to honor outstanding pupil transporters. Districts can submit one nomination for each 100 transportation employees.

The nominees are invited to an event in which they have breakfast with transportation office staff and superintendents from the participating districts. The association publicizes the program by sending out a press release to news outlets in the area.

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