SAN ANTONIO — Dr. Ray Turner, a school bus industry veteran known for his work in special-needs transportation, died in May.
Turner’s experience in pupil transportation spanned more than 40 years. One of his more prominent roles was special-education transportation coordinator at Northside Independent School District in San Antonio.
It was in the special-needs realm that Turner made his mark, authoring comprehensive training manuals and numerous articles on such topics as transporting students with spina bifida, communicating with the hearing impaired, avoiding falling hazards and responding to insect sting allergies.
Ted Finlayson-Schueler, president of Safety Rules!, described Turner as “an inveterate learner” as well as a keen observer.
“He shared information with thousands of people over the years and dug into topics that no one else was even thinking about,” Finlayson-Schueler said. “He was a person who was deeply spiritual and connected to creation. He saw dimensions that other people miss.”
In fact, Turner attributed his start in the pupil transportation field to a divine calling. In 1961, he observed the aftermath of a school bus-train tragedy in La Salle, Colorado, that killed 20 children.
“On that day, I promised God I would never have my children ride a bus and I would never drive or work on a school bus,” Turner told School Bus Fleet for a profile in 2003. “A year and a half later, He answered my prayers by making me a bus assistant after the Colorado legislature required all districts to have an assistant on buses that cross railroad tracks.”
Turner spent a long career working to enhance the safety of school bus passengers, focusing especially on students with disabilities. More recently, he became a certified accident reconstructionist and served as an expert witness.
In 2002, Turner’s efforts were recognized when he won the Sure-Lok-sponsored Special Needs Transportation Award at the National Association for Pupil Transportation conference.
During his tenure as special-education transportation coordinator at Northside Independent School District, Turner worked with a staff of some 330 special-needs school bus drivers and assistants who served a large population of special-needs students, many of whom were medically fragile.
Turner authored Northside’s special-needs transportation manual (which won an award at the Transporting Students with Disabilities conference in 2001), and he led an in-depth driver training program that covered such subjects as disabilities, lift operation, wheelchair tie-downs, behavior management and medical emergencies.
“My heart is in training, training, training,” Turner said in 2002. “The content, frequency and appropriateness of our training means we expect excellence — and we get it.”