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October 30, 2009  |   Comments (4)   |   Post a comment

15 Fascinating Personalities

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You’ve seen their names in the pages of SBF, and maybe you’ve met some of them at industry events. Now find out why these 15 noteworthy folks are in the school bus business — and what they do when they’re not working. The details shared here include adventures in the Rockies, famous crash test dummies and acting on a murder mystery dinner train.


Neal Abramson

Transportation Director, Santa Monica-Malibu (Calif.) Unified School


Photo: Neal Abramson has been an improvisational actor on the Fillmore and Western Railway Murder Mystery Dinner Train for more than 11 years.

Born: Omaha, Neb.
Home: Ventura, Calif.
Years in industry: 25
Notable previous jobs: I served as the district director of driver development and safety for Laidlaw Transit Inc., covering Ventura, Orange, part of Los Angeles, and San Diego counties in Southern California.

How did you get your start in the industry?
I worked as a school bus driver for Lincoln (Neb.) Public Schools while I attended the University of Nebraska. I also worked briefly as a school bus driver for R.W. Harmon & Sons for Omaha (Neb.) Public Schools.

Current job duties?
I am the director of transportation at Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. We operate 25 routes and provide service to 200 special-needs students and 400 to 500 regular-ed students. Due to the layout of Malibu, we only transport regular-ed students for this half of the district. We provide transportation for special-needs students in the Santa Monica portion.

Top achievements?
My top professional achievement is becoming a California state-certified school bus driver instructor while I was still in my twenties and then building my experience to become a transportation director. 
On the personal side, I have been married to my beautiful wife, Betty, for 12 years. 

Outside interests?
I am an avid cyclist as well as a member and the current president of the Channel Islands Bicycle Club. I also have been an improvisational actor on the Fillmore and Western Railway Murder Mystery Dinner Train ( for more than 11 years. 

What do you like most about being in the industry?
Working for more than 14 years at the same school district has given me the opportunity to see many children literally grow up right before my eyes. We've transported some students for their entire public school education.



Brad Barker
Shop Supervisor, Park City (Utah) School District

Brad Barker and wife Linda enjoy taking trips in their travel trailer.

Born: Salt Lake City
Home: West Jordan, Utah
Years in industry: 32

How did you get your start in the industry?
I started working on school buses at Davis School District in Farmington, Utah, while in high school during work release from auto shop class in my senior year.

After graduating, attending trade school and a few years in the trucking industry, I returned to full-time work for the same district. After working for Davis for 14 years, I took the position of shop supervisor for Park City (Utah) School District and have been there for the past 18 years.

What do you consider your top achievements?
I have been involved with the state technician training committee, and I help out on the state standards committee. I represented school bus technicians in general on the National Congress on School Transportation subcommittee for school bus specifications this last year, which has been a great learning experience, allowing me to meet many fine individuals of various positions in our industry.
What are some of your interests outside of work?
When I am not at work, I love to spend time with my family, which is growing rapidly.

If I get any spare time, I enjoy being creative by working with my hands and my heart carving caricature figures from wood and making other items for family. I enjoy fly fishing in the quiet mountain lakes and streams of the Rocky Mountains.

If you could travel anywhere ...
I would like to take three months and tour Europe. World history is fascinating.

What do you like most about being in the school bus industry?
Working in the school bus industry has brought joy to my life. One never gets "money rich" working in this business, but I feel I am rich with knowing I have contributed to the welfare of others in trying to keep school buses safe. The friends you make in this industry cannot be found many other places.

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Brad, You are truly an asset to Utah. You are also the proud winner of the NAPT National Competition. I would like to thank you for sharing knowledge with individuals in our industry. You are amazing. Launi Schmutz

Launi Schmutz    |    Oct 15, 2010 01:32 PM

I would love to see pics of the bus you are restoring. I myself have turned a '83 International into a motor home.

Joe Fondue    |    Aug 20, 2010 12:34 PM

Congratulations Diana - This is awesome. I could see you mud wrestling for charity however - you are an extremely warm and giving soul. You also have a tiny need to sometimes step over to the wild side. God Bless you my friend. MAxine

Maxine Mougeot    |    May 03, 2010 02:35 PM

Mr. Bob Riley was wonderful to work with here at Palm Beach County. I found him to be a wonderful mentor for all. Whether he was tutoring a driver in geometry for their GED test or teaching his staff how to deal with difficult parents he made it fun. He has the ability to make you feel comfortable and taught you to believe in yourself; I will always be grateful for the opportunities he gave me.

Sue Gorby    |    Nov 04, 2009 05:39 AM

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