Love the bus: School system celebrates bus drivers

Published 12:10 am Saturday, February 18, 2017

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — This week, Rowan-Salisbury Schools tipped its hat to education’s “unsung heroes”: bus drivers.

“A lot of times what they do kind of goes unnoticed,” Transportation Director Tim Beck said.

February is “Love the Bus” month, and the past week was Bus Driver Appreciation Week. Each day, the 250 bus drivers work to ferry 10,000 students to and from school on about 185 buses.

“That’s a huge accomplishment,” Beck said.

Schools throughout the district have been celebrating in different ways, hosting breakfasts, providing gift bags or just taking the time to celebrate the wheels that keep schools moving forward. Beck said CiCi’s Pizza donated a free buffet card to each driver.

On Friday morning, Superintendent Lynn Moody paid a personal visit to bus drivers at Shive Elementary School in Rockwell to express her appreciation.

Shive Assistant Principal Scotty Adcock said the school’s bus drivers cover a combined 250 miles daily and have nearly 200 years of experience among them.

Bus drivers are the first school employee students see in the morning and the last one they see at the end of the day, Moody said. Their ability to not only get students to and from school safely but also to build relationships with them is invaluable, she said.

“They set the tone for the entire day,” she said.

Moody spent the morning shadowing a Shive bus driver, hopping aboard Jill Kovach’s Bus 168 at Rockwell Elementary and riding its Shive route.

“If you want to get an understanding of all the kids we serve, you really need to ride the bus,” Moody said.

As each child boarded the bus, Kovach would greet them by name and ask if the student had told his parents that it was an early-release day. If a child was missing from a group getting on, she asked about him or her.

Bus drivers have a lot of responsibility, Moody said. They’re singlehandedly in charge of keeping order among nearly 60 students while still driving safely and following required procedures.

Moody said she knew having the superintendent as a passenger only added to the pressure, but she said that Kovach was “very cordial” and the bus ride was a joy — with students singing “Happy Birthday” to each other and chattering despite the early hour.

Moody said she is grateful she has the opportunity to work with people who care so much about children.

For Beck, Bus Driver Appreciation Week is a chance to shine the spotlight on a group of people who are often left out. Beck said he always sees signs giving thanks to or praising teachers, but people tend to forget about bus drivers. He said he is happy for the chance to let the public know that bus drivers play a vital role in schools.

“Education starts and stops at transportation,” he said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.