ELK GROVE, Calif. — After more than 10 years at the helm of the transportation department at Elk Grove Unified School District (USD), Jill Gayaldo is set to retire at the end of this month.
At Elk Grove USD, Gayaldo oversees an operation that transports 10,000 students on 157 school bus routes daily in the Sacramento area. Her last day on the job will be June 30.
During Gayaldo’s tenure, the transportation department has taken steps to reduce emissions by acquiring new alternative-fuel buses and retrofitting older diesel buses with particulate filters.
The district has 16 propane and 20 compressed natural gas buses in its fleet. More recently, Elk Grove USD secured a grant to help in acquiring 10 electric school buses, which Gayaldo said are expected to be delivered in July.
Elk Grove USD has also made transportation for field trips a priority. The growing district supplies school buses for more than 6,000 field trips per year for students at its 61 schools — soon to be 63, Gayaldo noted, with two new year-round elementary schools set to open in July.
In 2016, Elk Grove USD was recognized by the American School Bus Council with its School Bus Champion Award. Elk Grove Superintendent Chris Hoffman accepted the award for the district during a Love the Bus event, and he highlighted Gayaldo’s work in running an exemplary transportation operation.
“She does an absolutely phenomenal job,” Hoffman said, adding that the district’s buses transport students 2.7 million miles per year. “Because of that, our kids are as safe as possible.”
Gayaldo has worked for Elk Grove USD for 11 of her 31 years in the pupil transportation field. She began her career in 1986 as secretary for the transportation department at San Juan USD, another Sacramento-area district, which is where she grew attached to the business of transporting students.
“I had an affinity for what people were doing, for what drivers were doing,” Gayaldo said, adding that she was also impressed by the safety record of yellow buses. “If you care about safety, you want your kids on a bus.”
After moving up in the ranks at San Juan USD during her 14 years there, Gayaldo took on the director of transportation position at nearby Rocklin USD. Six years later, she landed at Elk Grove in the director role.
With Gayaldo’s retirement, Mike Sharp will take the reins as Elk Grove USD’s new director of transportation. Sharp, currently the transportation operations manager, started with the district as a school bus driver about 27 years ago and has also served as a scheduler and supervisor.
“Now it’s his turn to be the director,” Gayaldo said of Sharp. “He’s done such a great job for us for such a long time.”
Gayaldo said that she plans to focus on helping her aging parents and serving in her new city council position in Rocklin, California, where she lives. She hinted that she might also “find a way to keep my finger in the yellow bus world.”