MARION, Wis. — Donald Arndt has seen significant changes in the students and buses since he began working for Marion School District in 1960.
Arndt had been running a gas station when the school district asked him to become a technician for its school buses, so the buses wouldn’t need to be sent away to garages for servicing. Soon after, a bus driver position opened up and Arndt took it, beginning his 56 years of transporting students.
Dealing with many personalities was a big part of the job for Arndt. He told School Bus Fleet that discipline issues with children have increased over the years.
“You just have to let it be known right away that you just don’t tolerate this stuff,” Arndt said.
He was able to deal with most discipline issues himself by giving children a choice between sitting up front in his bus for a week or being turned in to the school for discipline.
“Sometimes after the week was up, I said, ‘The next day you move back a seat, the next day you move back another seat,’ so it took a whole week until they got back in the back where they were in the first place,” Arndt explained.
Changes in technology made a difference in the job, too. “Years ago it was all manual, no power brakes, no power steering, and all that kind of stuff,” Arndt said. “I don’t know if there’ll be a driverless bus — that’ll be something to look forward to.”
After his retirement this year, Marion School District honored him with a plaque for his years of work.
“Mr. Arndt has been a very, very important part of our school district,” said James Bena, the district administrator. “He is dedicated, he is loyal, he is very hard-working, and the Marion School District owes a debt of gratitude to him for his service.”
Despite the challenges of the job, Arndt enjoyed going on trips and working with teachers. “I would say it was a good ride,” he said.
Even after his retirement, Arndt’s association with the district continues. His son is a mechanic and school bus driver for the district just like his father once was, and Arndt still likes to drop by and help him.
“I go down there to pass the time if he needs an extra hand … he’s crawling under the bus and he needs a wrench and I just hand it to him,” Arndt said. “Makes it easier and quicker and gets me out of the house.”
Arndt also spoke with SBF in 2010 when he marked 50 years of service at Marion School District. To read that story, go here.