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May 16, 2013  |   Comments (2)   |   Post a comment

My journey to become a certified school bus driver — part 2

By Bill Lehman

Author Bill Lehman (center) interviewed for a bus driver position with Queen Creek (Ariz.) Unified School District #95 Director of Transportation Edd Hennerley, Marsha Stones, lead trainer, and Carolyn Gaebler, trainer and route coordinator (not pictured). Lehman says it was the most extensive and detailed interview he had ever gone through.

Author Bill Lehman (center) interviewed for a bus driver position with Queen Creek (Ariz.) Unified School District #95 Director of Transportation Edd Hennerley, Marsha Stones, lead trainer, and Carolyn Gaebler, trainer and route coordinator (not pictured). Lehman says it was the most extensive and detailed interview he had ever gone through.

Bill Lehman is a school bus driver for Queen Creek (Ariz.) Unified School District #95. In this five-part series, he shares his longtime desire to become a bus driver and the path that brought him to the industry.

In part 1, he writes about his first experiences on a school bus as a student.

In this segment of the series, Lehman writes about interviewing for a position at Queen Creek Unified School District #95 and the preliminary steps needed to become a school bus driver.  

As the years went by, I continued my education and soon found myself working in transportation, not as a bus driver, but for an airline. In the back of my mind, I never forgot that I wanted to drive a bus, but the money at the time just wasn’t enough to support myself or my family.  

In the church I attend, we have a drummer who is super talented, and who also runs the transportation department for Queen Creek Unified School District #95: Edd Hennerley. I approached Edd in the spring and asked him if he ever needed substitute school bus drivers. To my delight he said yes and encouraged me to apply online with the school district. I remember thinking at the time that it would be a breeze, and after all, I would just be driving a school bus.

After applying, over a month went by and I hadn’t heard anything. Finally, six weeks after submitting the application online, I received a call stating I needed to come in for a job interview. I was surprised because I had already known Edd for 10 years and now had over 34 years in the airline industry, and had gone through numerous background checks and fingerprinting as required by the federal regulations.  

To my surprise, the interview conducted by Edd and two of his other key people, Marsha Stones, lead trainer, and Carolyn Gaebler, trainer and route coordinator, was the most extensive and detailed interview I had ever gone through. I thought I would be handed the keys and start driving. Nothing could be further from the truth, as I would quickly learn.

Following the job interview, the next step for me was to complete a physical examination, followed by more paperwork, fingerprinting and a very detailed background check. I also had to go order a new social security card for myself since I hadn’t seen my last card in a number of years.  

A few weeks later, I met Marsha at the school yard to watch a video and complete the driver physical requirements along with some other new drivers, which was more stringent than what was required for me to work for an airline. This was followed by going to the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) of the state Department of Transportation to pick up a commercial CDL handbook. My job was to learn the four sections that would give me the endorsement to drive a school bus with air brakes. I spent the next three weeks cramming all the material into my head. The details that I had to memorize were tremendous, and at times I wasn’t sure if I could remember everything I needed to know.   

The day I went to take the four tests at the Arizona MVD office I was very nervous, as I had no idea exactly what I would be tested on. I quickly found out that the sample tests I was taking in the CDL study manual were not close to the computer tests I was taking. This resulted in only passing three of the four sections on my first try. The air brakes test simply covered material that was not in the air brakes section.  

With my head held low, I went to the transportation office and broke the news to Marsha and Edd. Both of them made a point to let me know that it was rare to pass the air brakes test on the first try; they offered me encouragement and told me to hang in there. I made a promise that I would not disappoint them and would study harder.  

Part 3 of Lehman’s article is now available here.

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I remember my first year. I was living in Kansas with 2 young children. I was a at home mom and ready to go back to work. I saw a billboard with the advertisement be a bus driver and take your 3yr toddler on the bus with you. I went and applied/took the tests and went through the extensive classroom/behind the wheel training. Then I was hired. There were moments during the first year when it was tough. Especially trying to deal with student management. My husband said "why don't I quit? Told no, that I really loved driving and the kids" Since then I have moved to Alaska, went through the training, became a behind the wheel trainer and classroom instructor and Field Safety Supervisor. I am in my 14th year of being in the school bus industry and I love it!

Melody Mounts    |    May 17, 2013 11:04 AM

Dear Ed, You bring back fond memories for me. I've been driving for 5yrs. & it seems like yesterday. I passed all 4 endorsements: school bus, air brake, passenger & general knowledge the first time around to get my permit to start the process. Only difference for me was that I got lost in the shuffle with DMV for them sending me my "S" letter. My training came to a screeching halt till I took a trip to DMV 7 days before my permit was to expire; along with an apology from DMV (and "S" letter in hand) - I resumed training (back then it was 20 hrs. of classroom and 15hrs. behind the wheel training w/Laidlaw). The only thing I felt would cause me not to pass & get my license was the alley docking part of the static course. I passed- and March 5, 2008 was the best day of my life. (I did a 180 degree career change and gave up a great job working for an insurance company making 32K a year.) They say that where your treasure is, therefore your heart shall be and I have yet to be disappointed in what I do!! Some people just "sit in that seat" for the money. Others like me realize the value of their worth early on- especially when the run you took over had seen 7 spare drivers (the last not speaking any English) and you get a blond haired, blue eyed third grader come up to you (practically in tears), look you in the eye and say innocently: "Miss Kristine- are you going to be our bus driver- we've had 7 spare drivers..." and you reply "yes Heather, I'll be your bus driver (as your heart goes to your feet cause you suddenly realize how important you are to the precious cargo you tote.) Yea, even, on my worse day, I still have a smile on my face greeting my kids "good morning" and "have a great day"- and I'm just happy to be doing my best!! Thanks for sharing your story. -Kristine

Kristine Nyack    |    May 16, 2013 05:00 PM

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