CHEYENNE, Wyo. — When Leeds Pickering graduated college in 1973 and couldn’t find a teaching position, he took a job driving a school bus “until something came up.”
Now, 37 years later, Pickering has announced his retirement as Wyoming’s state director of pupil transportation. During his career, he has bolstered Wyoming's school bus program and has been a driving force in state and national associations.
“Over that time, I have seen some major changes in the way school bus transportation is provided — equipment improvements, policy improvements, CDL, and drug and alcohol testing, to name a few,” Pickering said.
The news follows the recent retirements of two other longtime state pupil transportation directors: Indiana’s Pete Baxter and New Mexico’s Gilbert Perea.
Career kicks off
Months after Pickering was hired as a school bus driver for contractor Jelco Illinois Inc. in Rockford, Ill., he became their driver trainer.
He left after a year to earn a master’s degree in driving education, after which he served as a safety coordinator for Community Unit School District #5 in Sterling, Ill., for five years.
“During that time, Illinois started a new school bus driver training program and had one trainer per county,” Pickering recalled. “I taught the classes in Whiteside and Lee counties after school and on weekends on a part-time basis.”
A new state
In 1980, he moved to Wyoming and joined the state Department of Education, where he became state director two years later.
In the position, Pickering strengthened the state’s pupil transportation program in numerous ways.
He codified the Wyoming pupil transportation practices in statute and rules. “I worked with the Legislature for 13 years to get the first, and only, operations law in place,” Pickering said.
He created a state bid/district buy program that standardized school bus purchases across the state. The program “provided better buses to about half the districts with no work or added expense to them,” Pickering said.
He also established a school bus driver training program for the state.
Working with the Wyoming Pupil Transportation Association, Pickering helped improve the group’s conference attendance and establish an annual trade show and educational programs for transportation supervisors, technicians and special-needs transporters.
“I have had a great team across Wyoming that believes in the same goals as I do and has worked with me to provide our students with the safest ride possible, getting them to school ready to learn,” Pickering said. “Wyoming pupil transportation has come a long way in 30 years, and I am confident that it will continue to grow and improve.”
Starting this Friday, David Koskelowski will be the new state director for Wyoming. Pickering will retire Nov. 8.
In addition to his state director duties, Pickering served on the steering committees for the 14th and 15th National Congresses on School Transportation (NCST).
“I feel that the 15th NCST steering accomplished some major changes to bring the process into the 21st century,” he said.
Pickering is also a veteran member of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS).
“I went from the youngest state director at the 1982 NASDPTS meeting in Portland to the longest serving state director now,” he said. “I have learned a great deal from everyone I came in contact with.”