DOVER, Del. — When Ron Love left the U.S. Air Force after more than 26 years of serving in faraway lands and flying all kinds of aircraft, his next assignment was in a more "down-to-earth" field: school buses.
In the Air Force, Love was vice commander of the airlift wing at Dover Air Force Base, served as the U.S. national military representative at NATO's Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Belgium, commanded an aeromedical airlift squadron, performed duties for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, and worked with the United Nations in Israel. When he retired from the service, he had several career options, but the one that stood out was leading Delaware’s pupil transportation system.
“I said, ‘I want to go all out on that one,’” Love told SBF in an interview last week.
So in 1996, he joined the Delaware Department of Education as state director of pupil transportation. Although he had no official experience in the industry, he found that his Air Force career had prepared him well for his new role.
“It tracked from what I did before in flying, with safety and training and operations and procedures,” Love said. “It came together well.”
As Delaware’s state director — the longtime post from which he will step down in July — Love has overseen a pupil transportation system that now comprises about 1,800 yellow buses transporting 110,000 students daily. A third of the buses are owned by the state, while the other two-thirds are owned by contractors.
Throughout his tenure, Love led efforts to make improvements in safety, efficiency, and training. One of his first initiatives was to help design a computerized system for the state’s school bus contracts, which he said has helped ensure accuracy with the contracts and has made it easier to roll over information from one year to the next.
Similarly, Love and his staff built a centralized system for school bus driver and aide training and qualification records that can be accessed by districts, charter schools, and the Department of Education.
“If a driver moves from one district or contractor to another, we can easily move [the driver’s records],” Love said. “It helps with accuracy and safety.”
Training was another key area that Love targeted for improvement.
“We did not have mandatory in-service training for drivers and aides. We were able to get that into regulation last year,” Love said.
He also successfully made a case for hiring a Department of Education staff member to conduct training for school transportation staff throughout Delaware’s three counties, which Love said has standardized the state’s training program and made it more effective.
“It’s a world of difference over what we had,” he said.
Another change that Love spearheaded was requiring school bus aides to undergo physicals, just like the drivers.
Reflecting on the highlights of his 20 years in pupil transportation, Love points to the relationships with colleagues in Delaware and across the nation.
“I’ve had great support, great staff to work with here,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed everything — the profession and the people.”
When he retires as state pupil transportation director on July 19, Love plans to spend more time seeing family members around the country and abroad, including a growing group of grandchildren.
A search for Love’s replacement is underway. The new state director will have a month of overlap with Love to learn from his two decades of experience in the role.
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