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January 17, 2013  |   Comments (10)   |   Post a comment

Bob Austin remembered as pupil transportation mentor, pioneer

By Thomas McMahon


Bob Austin led the creation of an innovative joint-powers school transportation agency in California and later imparted his knowledge and passion to school bus driver instructors with the state Department of Education.
<p>Bob Austin led the creation of an innovative joint-powers school transportation agency in California and later imparted his knowledge and passion to school bus driver instructors with the state Department of Education.</p>
SAN DIEGO — Bob Austin, who served in roles ranging from school bus driver to CEO of an innovative joint-powers school transportation agency during his long career in the industry, has passed away.

Austin died on Jan. 7 after fighting cancer for more than four years. He was 74.

Anna Borges, who worked with Austin at the California Department of Education (DOE) before his retirement and is now state director of pupil transportation, told SBF that he was a “genuine, caring, passionate man who wanted to do good for the industry. … He had this huge desire to share his knowledge with everyone so they could be better at what they do.”

Austin started his career in school transportation in 1958 with the Antelope Valley Union High School District in Lancaster, Calif. He served in various positions, including school bus driver, mechanic and route foreman, and eventually worked his way up to director of transportation.

In 1980, Austin led the development and creation of the Antelope Valley Schools Transportation Agency, a joint-powers authority that began serving about eight school districts in the region, helping reduce their transportation costs. He also served as the agency’s first CEO.

Austin later worked for a few years as a pupil transportation consultant before then-state director Ron Kinney recruited him to the DOE to serve as a bus driver instructor program specialist in 1991.

Borges said that Austin had a vital impact on the state’s instructors, imparting his deep knowledge of — and his passion for — the safe transportation of students.

“He made them want to go out and be better instructors,” Borges said.

Austin also dedicated much of his time and efforts to the California Association of School Transportation Officials (CASTO) and to regional and state school bus roadeos. He served as president of CASTO from 1987 to 1989, and he was bestowed with the honor of life member in 1998.

Austin retired from the DOE in 2005, but he stayed involved in CASTO and the roadeos and continued to give presentations. At the 2008 CASTO conference, for example, he emphasized the need to carefully manage expenses, increase efficiency and improve quality control and employee accountability at school bus operations.

“If you’re the boss, it’s OK to say ‘Show me’ and require a paper trail,” he told conference attendees.

Over the years, many members of the California pupil transportation community looked to Austin for advice.

“He always felt like the man who had all the answers, but he never made you feel like you should already know them,” Borges said. “He was a mentor and a pioneer in transportation.”

A memorial for Austin will be held on Sunday, Jan. 20, at 1 p.m. at Balboa Park's Recital Hall, 2150 Pan American Rd. West, San Diego. In the meantime, family members and colleagues have been sharing their memories of him on a Facebook page.

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Read more about: California, conferences, driver training, history, roadeo

I started in school Trans in 1979 at Lucia Mar USD with Al Sauvadon as my supervisor. I retired in 2004 to become a Realtor. I spent every year practicing for Rodeos ,attending Casto workshops just to improve my skills. I spent my last 14 years in management. I served on the Casto State Board for several years. Some of the best years of my adult life. I had a great time. Bob was one of my favorite Academy instructors. He was so down to earth and patient with us. He brought confidence & humor to a very serious position. Learning from and serving with him for the"Safe Transportation of Our School Pupils" How I do miss those times, Thank You Bob!

Anne McCracken,CRS,ABR,SR    |    Jan 11, 2014 05:28 PM

Bob was my tester for my BTW trainer certification, and I have seen him at Roadeos and a few workshops and conferences since then. I always regarding him as a knowledgable, patient, and caring person who was someone we could all look up to professionally and personally. My prayers are with his family.

Laura Stick    |    Jan 24, 2013 12:27 PM

May god bless you mr. Austin you are a fret man ive kown kindergarten. U are great!!!!!

Daren ayres    |    Jan 23, 2013 10:53 PM

I enjoyed Bobs lessons at the academy he was always helpful. He was also a great two step teacher. I will miss seeing you at the CASTO conferences it was a pleasure and honor knowing such a smart and caring man. May God bless his family.

Jennifer Maddox    |    Jan 23, 2013 12:55 PM

I worked with Bob for many years in CASTO. He will be remembered as one of the best in the industry.

John Kreiger    |    Jan 22, 2013 01:23 PM

Bob Austin was the sweetest man I ever met. His knowledge and training video's was easy to understand and can still be used today. If you ever had a question if he didn't know the answer he would take the time to find out. He will surely be missed..

Troie Wilde    |    Jan 18, 2013 12:07 PM

I became an Instructor in 1980, I've known Bob since the early 80's. I took a brief separation from teaching and then returned to the field, when I did Bob was extremely helpful and encouraging. Also when I went back to the Administrators course, again he was so full of knowledge, helpful, compassionate, and had such a great sense of humor! I adored Bob Austin, and will greatly miss as everyone who truly knew him will.

Carolyn Avilla    |    Jan 18, 2013 06:01 AM

I had contact with, and knew Bob since I entered the school bus industry in 1979. I have always had the highest respect for Bob's integrity, achievements and drive to constantly innovate and improve safety. I always looked forward to seeing Bob at CASTO, STN, etc. Bob will definitely be missed!

Gordon Bergelson    |    Jan 17, 2013 10:14 PM

Anna Borges' title is actually Supervisor of the Office of School Transportation for California Dept. of Ed. Bob was awesome. A true leader in the industry.

Real life instructor    |    Jan 17, 2013 06:48 PM

I attended the Academy in July of 1994 and have always looked up to Bob ever since as a great Instructor, Teacher and Mentor, I know our industry will feel this great loss here in California. Bob you were a true leader and a special man and now you have your transportation wings up in heaven to prove it. God bless your family. Julie A. Munoz Class of 202

Julie A. Munoz    |    Jan 17, 2013 06:12 PM

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