10 Phenomenal Women in School Transportation

Michaela Kwoka-Coleman, Editorial Assistant
Posted on October 26, 2017

School Bus Fleet finds out more about some of the women across the U.S. who are crucial to making school buses run safely and on time.

Doris Bean

Manager of Transportation
Glendale Elementary School District #40

Glendale, Arizona

How did you get started in the industry?

I started as a school bus driver in the mid ’90s and loved greeting the students and talking to the parents at the bus stop. Moving into the office and becoming a school bus router in a DOS system from Educational Logistics (Edulog) was very interesting. I am a geographical-type person, so doing routing in a growing area was right up my alley.

What are your current job duties?
I help with dispatching and routing, and I work closely with drivers both in regular education and special needs. I do investigations on the school bus, which includes anything from a community complaint to a random student check or speed report.

What are your top professional achievements?
I went back to college in 2005 and received my certificate of completion for geospatial technology and global positioning systems. This degree has assisted me at my current position, where I have been since 2006. In 2012, I started a new good ridership program for anti-bullying. Later, I was awarded a Seon anti-bullying grant for our student ridership anti-bullying program.

What made you get involved with anti-bullying efforts?
Throughout my career, I’ve seen bad things happen to good people, mostly due to bullying, and/or not protecting employees. A high school student exploding a can of deodorant on the bus; kids throwing raw eggs, water balloons, or paintballs hitting the side of a bus — these are things that happened before schools became “zero tolerance” with weapons and drugs. I had to watch good people quit their jobs. A lot has changed since then, but this is why I’m still involved with anti-bullying efforts. Too many children and adults have been hurt by bullying.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I love to fish. I grew up in California and came from a fishing family. My husband was on the state Bassmaster team for Arizona in 1988, and one of my great enjoyments is beating him at fishing.

Judy Bruinooge

Director of Transportation
Eastern Christian School

North Haledon, New Jersey

How did you get your start in the industry?

My dad and brother-in-law were both school bus drivers at the time, and they encouraged me to get my commercial driver’s license (CDL) because the school was so shorthanded. My youngest was starting kindergarten, and I thought it to be a good way to connect to the school.

What are your current job duties?
Write routes, take care of state aid for families, drive when necessary, work with the athletic department, field trips, hire CDL drivers, oversee our bus maintenance, keep track of costs, work with our business office, dispatch, scheduling, the list goes on. I am committed to whatever it takes to keep transportation running as smoothly as possible.

What are some of your outside interests?
I find enjoyment in mountains, animals, and taking pictures. I try to group them together and create picture books as gifts.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I am a beautician by trade and have a fascination with sea creatures.

What do you find most interesting about the school transportation industry?
That I still get to be a mother and nurturer outside my home. Students like to tell you about their day, share their woes, and boast about their successes. I helped pull loose teeth, gave homework advice, and I have watched my kindergartners become high school seniors. I love when a child tells me his house is the one with a tree, or the one with a driveway in the front.

Ashley Fussell

Area Transportation Supervisor
Virginia Beach City Public Schools

Virginia Beach, Virginia

How did you get started in the industry?

I started in transportation when I was 16 years old. I was doing a marketing program through my high school, and you had to acquire a job within an office environment. So, I got a job in transportation helping answer the phones and with our dispatch office. It went so well that when I graduated from high school and enrolled in college, they asked me to stay and help within the office. So, I worked [here] throughout my college career.

What are your current job duties?
I supervise about 55 bus drivers and 50 special-needs assistants. I’m in the special-needs department, and we work on routing the special-needs kids depending on where their program is housed [at] local schools and getting them to the program that their individualized education plan (IEP) requires.

Have you noticed growth in the number of women working in leadership positions since you started in the industry?
I would say, yes, there is some growth but not much. … We haven’t caught up with the men.

What is the best advice someone has given to you?
Say yes to more things. Say yes to more job duties or maybe something that you wouldn’t even think about doing. You never know where that’s going to lead you in the future or what doors it’s going to open.

What is the biggest challenge in special-needs transportation?
Some of our programs aren’t offered at every school. So, a lot of times we have routes that can be up to an hour long, and it might just be transporting one student. That’s the biggest challenge: logistically making sure the student is getting to and from school on time, regardless of where they live and where their program is hosted.

Melissa Garton

Transportation Coordinator
Dickson (Tenn.) County Schools

How did you get started in the transportation industry?

I came into transportation in 1997, doing all the routing and zoning for our system. Then I went into doing field trips, safety programs, and driver training. Now I oversee 130 employees. I’ve done just about everything in transportation.

What are your top professional achievements?
Becoming transportation coordinator. I’m also on the advisory board for the Tennessee Association of Pupil Transportation.

Have you noticed growth in the number of women working in leadership positions since you started in the industry?
Over the last 20 years, I’ve gone to our state and regional meetings, I have seen more women becoming transportation coordinators, directors, and supervisors. We are growing into the organization more. It’s not like we’re overbounding the men, but I think that we have become more [prominent] than we used to be.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I had cervical cancer when I was 19 years old. Both of my children are miracle children.

What is some of the best advice someone has given you?
That would be my mother: “Do everything with 110% and you won’t have to worry that you didn’t do it right the first time.”

Can you talk about the emergency training events that you hold?
Last year, we did a mock [emergency] with the whole county. We brought in Tennessee Emergency Medical Services, Life Flight [air medical transport], police departments, and fire departments. We turned one of our retired buses over on a car and had children, who we used as actors, made up to look like they had been hurt. We put [the children] on carts, got them where they needed to go for medical attention. It was something we hadn’t done before in our county. It gave all the entities that are working with us the opportunity to see what a mass casualty would cause if we did have a bus wreck where a lot of children got hurt.

Dianne Grumelot

Executive Director of Transportation Cumberland County Schools
Fayetteville, North Carolina

How did you get started in the industry?

I started in transportation in 2003, and had come from the child care side of things in the school system. Our school system ran an after-school program and there was an opening in transportation for a supervisor here, and I figured [it was] still working with parents and their children, just in a little different capacity, so I switched over to the bus side.

What are your current job duties?
Overseeing the routing, mechanics, and day-to-day operations of transportation for Cumberland County Schools.

Outside of work, what are some of your hobbies?
I love traveling, visiting grandchildren, and reading. After you have a radio on in your office and a phone on all day, sometimes having no noise is nice.

What is the best advice someone has given to you?
Deal with one problem or concern at a time. And don’t let it overwhelm you. Even if you feel like you’ve said the same thing 20 times today, it’s new to that one person.

What do you find most interesting about the school transportation industry?
It’s new every day. It is never dull. You don’t ever sit around and twiddle your thumbs or think, “What am I going to do next?” I mean, we just went through wondering if part of this hurricane [Irma] was going to come and hit North Carolina. So, you’re running your regular buses and everything that goes with a normal day, and then you’re saying, “OK, if this happens, this is how we have to be prepared.”

What was your experience like dealing with the hurricanes that hit your district last year?
We were out of school for seven days, and then had to reroute buses for roads that were not passable. We were able to get kids back in school, so they had some semblance of order. We still have people that are out of their homes. That’s why we were really watching this hurricane.

Jennifer Hanshew

California Association of School Transportation Officials;
Operations Supervisor
Kern High School District
Bakersfield, California

How did you get started in the industry?

I started in 1994. Becoming a California school bus driver meant becoming part of a team of professional and elite drivers. I became a state certified school bus driver instructor in 2001, moving into a supervisory position in 2007.

What are your current job duties?
As operations supervisor, I assist in the planning and management of pupil transportation. That involves supervision of a staff of more than 175 school bus drivers and transportation assistants. I also plan, organize, and design school bus routes to ensure the consistent, safe, and timely delivery of home-to-school and activity trip destinations.

What are some of the key issues you’re tackling during your tenure as CASTO president?
We are always working on increasing our membership. We strive to provide quality information on laws, regulations, and training by holding state conferences, manager and mechanics forums, as well as school bus safety roadeos.

What do you find most interesting about working in the transportation industry?
The drivers are the most interesting as far as their backgrounds and what inspired them to be drivers.

What is some of the best advice someone has given you?
To make sure that you’re fair and honest with everybody, regardless of how you feel about the person.

What are your top professional achievements?
Besides being CASTO president, I have been a California state certified school bus driver instructor. These positions have allowed me to help people, mentor them, and watch them succeed.

Have you noticed growth in the number of women working in leadership positions since you started in the industry?
Yes. When you consider the ratio of school bus drivers who are women, it is not surprising to see great women in leadership roles. Whether a lead bus driver, driver instructor, supervisor, dispatcher, or director, these women all fulfill crucial roles, but at the end of the day it’s all about the right person for the job.

Shelly Jonas

Executive Administrator
Minnesota School Bus Operators Association
Annandale, Minnesota

How did you get started in the transportation industry?

My parents owned a school bus company, so I pretty much was raised in the school bus industry. I began working for them after I finished college, and I started working for the Minnesota School Bus Operators Association in 1998.

What are your current job duties?
I attend a lot of meetings on things that are going on in the industry, and I spend a lot of time working with our lobbyist at the state capitol lobbying for school bus safety-related laws.

Have you noticed growth in the number of women working in leadership positions since you started in the industry?
Yes. There have been times over the years where I was the only woman in the room. Right now, my board has the most women on it that it’s ever had. I think we have five women board members. So, it’s definitely moving in that direction.

What is some of the best advice that someone has given you?
I don’t know that it’s advice exactly, but when I started working with my dad, he was kind of pushing me to take a bigger role outside of the company. So I have adopted the motto, “If not me, then whom?” I try not to be the person who says that somebody should do something about this. I try to look at things saying, “What can I do?”

What are some of the top issues that the Minnesota School Bus Operators Association is facing?
Like probably everybody else in the nation, we’re facing a driver shortage. I think that part of [the solution] is giving drivers the recognition that they deserve. It’s not an easy job; it’s a lot of responsibility. I think trying to override some of the public perception about the job is a difficult task to overcome to get people in the door.

Debbie McGuire

Driver Trainer/PBIS Student Management Liaison
Selah (Wash.) School District 119

What are your current job duties?
I train new drivers and come up with new ways to better their skills, such as interpretive driving and having them compete in school bus safety competitions or roadeos. I also work with a program I started here called Pride Patrol. It’s a program where older students set positive examples for younger students, by sitting with them on the bus, occupying their time, helping out in the classroom at the elementary school and the bus lines at the end of the day. It’s helped reduce disciplinary referrals by 50% to 75%.

Have you noticed growth in the number of women working in leadership positions since you started in the industry?
The way the industry started out, it was a lot of moms at home who were taking care of their kids and it was a great opportunity for them to work while their kids were in school and have the summers off. But I see a trend now where we’re getting a lot of retired people who want something to do after they’ve retired or want to supplement their income.

What are some of your outside interests?
Spending time with my family, especially my grandchildren, and traveling, camping, fishing, and swimming.

What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
People would be surprised to learn, with me being a school bus driver, my sister was hit by a car and killed when crossing to catch the bus when I was 10 years old. She was only 6 at the time. She was going to catch the bus in the morning in front of our house, and the bus was coming to a stop. She lost her shoe running across the road and went back to get it and a car hit her. It didn’t slow down for the bus and it hit her. That’s why I get really angry when people are not slowing down or stopping for the school buses.

How did your sister’s death influence your career in transportation?
I’m more passionate about my job. It’s really important to me to make sure bus drivers are good drivers and that motorists really watch out for our kids.

Julie Murphy

Director of Transportation Services Seminole County Public Schools
Winter Springs, Florida

How did you get started in the transportation industry?

My sister drove a school bus. I had just graduated high school, and my sister thought it would be a great job for me because of the summers off, and she talked me into it.

What are your top professional achievements?
I’m proud to say that I started as a school bus driver, just out of high school, and then worked my way through each level of the administration until I reached my goal of becoming the director of transportation. It included having to complete my college degree while working full-time as an administrator for Seminole County Public Schools.

What is some of the best advice someone has given you?
My dad would always say, “Do not forget where you come from.” As you move up in the industry, you need to remember the people who you worked with at different levels along the way. And if you have the opportunity to [make] changes for the better for them, then you should make those changes.

How did your district deal with Hurricane Irma?
We are a key player anytime there’s a community emergency in Seminole County. We provide all of the community evacuations, not only taking citizens to safety, but then providing them a return trip at the end of the hurricane or whatever the community disaster. We work the entire time. While most people are running away from the hurricane, my staff is running to the hurricane.

What are the benefits your district has seen using propane buses?
We really like the propane buses. They’re much quieter, and they’re a much healthier alternative for the students because they’re not breathing in the chemicals from the diesel.

Lori-Ann Savino

Director of Transportation
Jericho (N.Y.) School District

How did you get started in the transportation industry?

I wanted my daughter to go into kindergarten enrichment programs, so I quit my job and went to work at a nursery school day care center, where I was responsible for driving buses, helping out in the classroom, and cleaning bathrooms.

What is some of the best advice someone has given you?
A wise friend once told me that when making career changes and something that’s going to impact you, you should always focus on quality of life and happiness.

What are your top professional achievements?
This year, I’m the president of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, and I hold that title for two years. I think that’s a great accomplishment.

What are the top priorities for the New York Association for Pupil Transportation right now?
Our top mission is always to make sure that the 5.2 million children we transport throughout New York state are safe, and that we represent the districts and contractors with efficiency. We work very closely with our legislators to oversee and share our voice where it concerns children riding on school buses. We are also very focused on training our drivers, monitors, supervisors, and technicians who manage our children every day.

What do you find most interesting about the school transportation industry?
It’s outstanding to be part of an industry where people who are also each other’s competition can sit at a table and talk about student safety collectively, regardless of whether you run a district operation, you’re a contractor, a bus distributor, or a training entity. We can all come together for the common good of our children.

Comments ( 2 )
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  • Ryan Hahn

     | about 2 years ago

    I have known Debbie McGuire for 20 years! She is a class act and I’m so proud of her and her work. She is always positive and truly cares about the safety and well being of kids. So glad she is recognized.

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