Newport-Mesa USD Director of Transportation Pete Meslin (right) presents Superintendent Dr. Fred Navarro (center) with a Very Important Passenger certificate following his ride-along with driver Daniel Cutenese (left).
COSTA MESA, Calif. — Newport-Mesa Unified School District (USD) had a special passenger on one of its morning routes on Wednesday: Superintendent Dr. Fred Navarro.
Navarro arrived at the district’s bus yard early to watch driver Daniel Cutenese do a pre-trip inspection of his school bus, and then Navarro received a bus pass so that he could accompany Cutenese on the bus as he did his morning route, picking up and dropping off students at the district’s schools.
Navarro was the first guest of honor for Newport-Mesa USD’s Very Important Passenger program, which was developed by Director of Transportation Pete Meslin and launched with his colleagues in the transportation department.
“We had a lot of support from the school board,” Meslin told SBF, noting that the board’s support was instrumental in getting the program off the ground.
“As part of this program, we will be inviting various dignitaries to ride along on our school buses,” Meslin explained. “Three to four times per year, famous community members from the political and entertainment worlds will get to share the experience of riding a school bus. The intent of the program is to bring attention to the critically important role school bus transportation plays in the lives of our students and community.”
“We need to promote what we do,” Meslin added. “It [the program] makes people see that we’re more than just ‘the bus people’ — we’re educators, too. And it gives the ‘celebrity’ an idea of what is involved in transporting students.”
Following the morning route on Wednesday, Navarro returned to Newport-Mesa USD’s bus yard, where he was presented with a Very Important Passenger certificate, a Newport-Mesa baseball cap and a district T-shirt.
He also spoke to attendees about his experience.
Here, Navarro observes Cutenese as he performs a pre-trip inspection prior to going on his route.
“He [Daniel Cutenese] was very thorough with the pre-trip inspection, and he represented the team well,” Navarro said. “We have a great group of drivers here, and we’re lucky to have them."