U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood stopped by Takoma Park Elementary School just north of Washington, D.C., to show his affection for the yellow bus, the children in attendance and the industry as a whole during a "Love the Bus" event.
The Feb. 22 celebration may have hit a little speed bump due to an overabundance of Mother Nature’s white powder, but once this year’s federally-recognized American School Bus Council Love the Bus event started, it kept rolling. After being greeted by NAPT President-Elect Alex Robinson and Takoma Park Elementary Principal Zadia Gadsden, Board of Education President Chris Barclay and Superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast addressed the crowd, highlighting that Montgomery County Public Schools was recently honored with the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the highest presidential honor given for performance excellence.
Congressman Chris Van Hollen also attended the event, speaking about safety of buses and the dedication of bus drivers, including Wellington Abud. Known affectionately as Mr. Wellington by his Takoma Park students, Abud was honored at the event by his riders. The children were given yellow ASBC "School Bus Champion" T-shirts to wear during the event.
After reminding everyone that Secretary LaHood was once a social studies teacher in Peoria, Ill., NAPT's Robinson invited him to speak to the crowd. Pulling his chair up to the group of children sitting up front and asking them to gather around, LaHood reminded them that they were safer in school buses then even in their parents' cars and that they should make sure they thank their drivers and teachers.
“The school bus is seven time safer than any other way to get to school,” said LaHood.
After explaining some of the safety equipment on the school bus and how NHTSA regulates how they are built, LaHood opened up the floor for questions from the kids. He fielded some tough questions from the elementary students, including "How hard is it to keep buses safe?" to “Do you know the President?" (he took this moment to clarify that his job was not driving the president around) to "Is there anything you can do about some of my favorite TV shows being cancelled?"
“It was definitely unscripted,” said NAPT’s Robinson.
LaHood also spent time taking photos and speaking with ASBC members and some of the parents in attendance. To see video from the event, head over to the Montgomery County Public Schools Web site. LaHood also addressed the event in his official online blog, Fast Lane.