Feeling the Love
Feeling the love
Alabama school bus drivers honored for their hard work
Martin J. Reed
On her normal bus route for the Alabama School for the Blind in Talladega, Julia Mattox usually takes about 45 minutes to reach her destination in Lineville, but Jan. 28 was no typical day.
When the snow started falling, Mattox had three students board her bus.
“The roads were snowed over, but they weren’t frozen,” she recalled. On her way to Lineville after about two hours on the road, she had to stop at an elementary school in Ashville because the route “was impassable.”
“It was quite an experience. My children stayed calm. I prayed all the way there,” Mattox said.
School bus drivers throughout Alabama nominated from their districts received commendations at a special event sponsored by bus dealer Transportation South in Pelham on Feb. 4.
The “Love the Bus” program recognized the drivers for their daily work to help protect children.
“It really is an honor for one thing that people usually think about what we do on a daily basis, but it’s a reward every day when you get a hug and they say, “See you tomorrow, Miss Julia,”” Mattox said about children on her route.
Twenty-five bus drivers earned recognition, while one of then received the title of Alabama School Bus Driver of the Year.
“I’m very much surprised, to tell you the truth,” said Douglas Ray Edward, a driver for Madison County schools, said after receiving the top honor.
Transportation president Bucky Law read Edward’s nomination form submitted by a parent who commended the bus driver for taking care of a special needs student riding a regular bus.
Edward looks after the student and he will “personally walk him to class” if no teacher is around to escort him, Law said.
Jobs well done
Alabama Department of Education Director of Pupil Transportation Joe Lightsey praised the work of all school bus drivers around the state. Every day, roughly 7,600 buses travel routes totaling more than 500,000 miles to transport 378,000 students in Alabama, he said.
“School buses are the safest form of ground transportation- bar none.” Lightsey said. “They’re all well trained, they’re caring, they’re concerned, they’re dedicated members of their community as we saw last week and numerous other times.”
Indeed, many school bus drivers face extraordinary circumstances on the icy, treacherous roads a few weeks back.
“We were very blessed that we didn’t have anybody stuck with kids on the bus,” said Jeff Nichols, transportation supervisor for Alabaster City Schools. “It was a tense situation for the whole afternoon.”
School bus drivers knew “not to panic out in that situation on the road,” Nichols said, crediting their training.
Lightsey and others pointed to the heroic efforts of school bus driver Charles “Chuck” Poland, Jr. in Midland City last year, who was fatally shot Jan. 29, 2013 when a gunman boarded his bus and Poland refused to hand over children.
All but one child escaped the tense situation that led to a six-day standoff when the gunman held the kidnapped student in an underground bunker.
State lawmakers last year passed an act, named after the bus driver, which makes it illegal to trespass on a school bus.
“They protect them from incidents and from crashes all across their route,”Lightsey said about drivers.