MOJAVE, Calif. — A shake-up in staffing that was prompted by a transportation supervisor retiring from a school district here has led to a department restructuring and the promotion of three bus drivers.
Susan Thompson, former transportation supervisor of the Maintenance, Operations and Transportation (MOT) department at Mojave Unified School District, recently retired after more than 30 years with the district. As a result, the MOT department split into two separate departments: maintenance and operations, and transportation, explained Tom Altman, the new transportation supervisor.
Altman had worked for the district as a bus driver for 10 years. He now manages the bus drivers, mechanics, school buses and small fleet vans for the transportation department. The district runs 15 routes with 17 school buses, and five van routes with seven vans. Two of the routes are dedicated to transporting about 100 special-needs students.
Meanwhile, Cindy Moore, the former secretary of the MOT department, was promoted to the new position of director of the Maintenance and Operations department, and Pamela Armstrong, a former bus driver for the district, has been promoted to coordinator for both departments.
Moore has worked with the district for 24 years; she was the MOT coordinator/secretary for 11 years, and a bus driver for 14 years before that. She moved into her current position on June 1. The transition for her was a smooth one, since she has worked with the employees on the maintenance and operations side for a long time, and Altman took on her transportation department duties in his new role, she said.
Armstrong had been a school bus driver for 25 years before switching positions on July 1. She said the change has been easy, because she had already been handling some of her current job duties in her previous position between routes, such as taking care of work orders and answering phone calls from parents and schools.
Now, Armstrong is in charge of the work order system for the departments, and any related paperwork.
“I’m pretty excited. I’m enjoying it,” she said.
“We’re all learning our own niches, and how we all gel together, and it’s working pretty well,” Altman said.
Altman’s goals as the new transportation supervisor are to step up some housekeeping efforts, such as having the buses and the floors washed and waxed more frequently. He also plans to start replacing the fleet, so it can accommodate the increase in trips needed due to growing enrollment.
He is also in the process of overseeing the training of several new bus drivers, and having that training conducted in-house made the transition into his new role easier, Altman said. (The district used to send drivers to Kern County Superintendent of Schools in Bakersfield for training during a period in which they were not able to hire a driver trainer due to budget constraints.)
“The new bus drivers are able to be trained here, where they will become drivers for us, not the Bakersfield area,” he noted. The department also found that many of its potential new drivers could not afford to drive some 60 miles one way in their personal vehicle to train.
“Training in the area they live in helps the pocketbook and calms the nerves a bit,” Altman said.
He added that with in-house training, the department can train when it is convenient for them and, since they see the current drivers drive every day, when it is time to retrain, “we know their weaknesses, and what to hone in on to make them better and safer drivers.”
The district has two full-time bus driver positions open, and is using substitute drivers to temporarily fill those positions.
During the shake-up, the 23 staff members have been supportive of each other and of the changes that have taken place, Altman said.
“I’m very proud of how [staff members] have stepped up. They have really helped out one another.”