Adam James is fairly new to the school bus world, but his background in the Marines helped prepare him for a career in pupil transportation management.
In spring 2017, after retiring from the Marine Corps as a master sergeant, James was hired as director of transportation for Greenville (S.C.) County Schools. In that role, he oversees a big operation of 369 school bus routes and more than 500 employees.
Here, James discusses his experience in the Marines and how it applies to his job in school transportation.
“It’s actually very similar," he says. "At the end of my Marine Corps career, I was the maintenance chief of an attack helicopter squadron. When we would be prepping for the day’s flights, the mechanics would be out on the flight line inspecting and prepping the aircraft. I’m reminded of this when I get a chance to be at the school bus lot early to see the drivers and aides doing their pre-trip inspections. I also love to see the drivers’ and aides’ faces when they see my face that early in the morning. I’m a people person, so I like to visit with them. Unfortunately, I don’t get to do it as much as I want because we are spread out over five locations.
“This transportation department is a lot bigger than a single squadron, but a lot of the leadership principles that I learned in the Marines apply to this, including 'Know your Marines and look out for their welfare' and 'Set the example.' I really try to get to know the transportation employees well, whether it be the drivers, aides, or the administrative team. I believe in a handshake and a smile.
“I also have my CDL to drive a bus. I drove a route for a little bit last school year. I wanted to show the team that I was willing to do what I ask them to do. I even made my supervisors start driving at least once a semester this year. Some have actually driven more than once already since the beginning of school. I don’t want anyone on the administrative team to lose sight of what our drivers and aides have to deal with. I came up through the ranks in the Marines, so being qualified and willing to roll up sleeves and get a job done is very important to me.”
Adam James’ comments here are an excerpt from School Bus Fleet’s “10 Fascinating People in Pupil Transportation” feature, which will appear in the upcoming November 2018 issue of the magazine.