Several members of Jackson R-II School District's transportation team have driven for 20 to 30 years, while one has driven for more than 40 years.
Fleet Gets ‘A’s for Safety
Jackson R-II School District
Operating a rural fleet where 60 percent of the roads are gravel presents certain challenges, especially in keeping buses in top shape. Still, for the past eight years of state inspections, the Jackson R-II School District in Jackson, Mo., has earned a 100 percent score five times. “All it takes is one light out and you don’t get a perfect score,” says Carol Woods, director of transportation.
Having served for nine years as transportation director and 23 years total in the department, Woods is well equipped to help her fleet get good grades. But Woods says that the department’s success is due to “the dedication of each person in the department. We are a transportation family,” she says.
Another of the operation’s strengths is its strong ties with administrators, principals and teachers.
“Our working relationship with Carol and her fleet is outstanding,” Superintendent Ron Anderson says. “They really promote safety.”
Practices to boost safety, efficiency and morale include a monthly safety meeting. Drivers are trained in such topics as CPR and first aid, child safety restraint systems and wheelchair tiedowns. Incentives for attending driver safety meetings include prizes and snacks. All safety meetings are filmed for any drivers who miss them.
During National School Bus Safety Week, drivers go to all K-5 classes and teach school bus safety, both inside the classroom and out. Outside, two drivers rope off the danger zones. Students then hold the ropes so they can see the danger zones around big buses. This is followed by a short ride and instruction on how to exit and cross safely after the ride. Other safety aids include workbooks with bus rules, worksheets on bus safety and a picture of the danger zone.
Woods says that turnover is low. One driver has been there more than 40 years, and several have driven for 20 to 30 years. All birthdays are posted on the calendar each month, and the department has a Thanksgiving lunch and a Christmas breakfast each year.
Still, having enough drivers to keep runs covered can be difficult at times, but the department overcomes it with teamwork. “If we have a sick driver or one that uses a personal day, it can be challenging,” Woods says. “During these days, everyone drives, including me. We always make it through the tough days because everyone works together.”
For the fleet, special equipment includes tinted windows, heated mirrors, PA systems, electric doors, white roofs and air conditioning on all special-needs buses. Additionally, all of the buses are equipped with surveillance cameras, which help with student discipline issues, Woods says.
Bus maintenance includes lube and inspection every 3,000 miles, with oil changes every 5,000. The three mechanics also have to handle school district tractors and mowers. Still, they are able to deal with eight buses at a time.
In November, Woods became a nationally certified director of pupil transportation. Currently, she is a director in the Missouri Association for Pupil Transportation and president of the organization’s St. Louis region.
Woods and her people know the road taken can be rough as gravel, but working together makes life smoother for everyone.
“Every day, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to work for our school district’s bus fleet,” Woods says. “Together, we make a difference in the lives of our students.”
— LYNN TILTON
Students transported daily: 2,990
Schools served: 9
Total students in district: 4,576
Transportation staff: 72
Area of service: 280 square miles
Average driver wage: $29.40 per route