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April 01, 2007  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Thomas Built names 'Driver of the Year'


HIGH POINT, N.C. — Thanks to one of her more grateful passengers, Elaine Brogan of the Branchburg (N.J.) School District was named the “Children’s Choice School Bus Driver of the Year” for 2006.

Second-grader Erica Gagliardi won an essay contest held by Thomas Built Buses in which elementary school students from across the country explained what makes their drivers special.

Erica wrote of Brogan’s skill in teaching bus evacuations and ensuring safe street-crossing. She also described the joy her driver brings to the bus by playing fun music and giving gifts on holidays.

In return, Brogan sang Erica’s praises.

“She is an excellent passenger,” Brogan said in an interview. “It would be great to have a whole busload of Ericas.”

Still, Brogan said that her other passengers have also been well behaved — for the most part.

“Of course, there are daily trials and tribulations,” admitted Brogan, who has been shuttling students for nearly 18 years.

For nominating the winning driver, Erica earned a $1,000 educational savings bond provided by Thomas Built and a laptop provided by Thomas Built partner Electronic Data Systems Corp.

Brogan won a trip for two to the National Association for Pupil Transportation’s 2006 convention in Kansas City, Mo., in November.

Another result of the contest for both the driver and the youngster was an appearance on national television. In February, a crew from the CBS Early Show rode the bus with Brogan and visited Erica at her home. The segment aired in early March.

The contest also recognized four runners-up and one honorable mention. The runners-up were:


  • Kurt Anfinson of South Winneshiek School District in Calmar, Iowa — nominated by Micole Lansing.


  • Hazel Sleeter from Charles W. Lewis Middle School in Blackwood, N.J. — nominated by Emily Antrilli.


  • Bill Henson of the West Ottawa Public School District in Holland, Mich. — nominated by Tyler MacDonald.


  • Leetta Vinson of Albany (Ore.) Public Schools — nominated by William Burnett.

    Honorable mention went to Lisa Oliphant from Shepard Elementary School in Statesville, N.C. — nominated by Katie Gibson. All received Thomas Built jackets and Saf-T-Liner C2 school bus lunch boxes.

    Thomas Built President and CEO John O’Leary explained the point of the contest. “For many children, the person who opens the school bus door every day is a friend, mentor and guardian,” O’Leary said. “This is our way of saying thank you to those drivers.”

    In March, the company launched a 2007 edition of the contest. Children’s essays are due July 16.

    To learn more about the 2007 contest and to view the top essays from 2006, go to

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