Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed the first School Bus Safety Week proclamation in the state’s history last month. In doing so, he honored a local school bus driver for keeping her students safe during a police-involved shooting over the summer.
Ige attended a ceremony on Oct. 22 to highlight this year’s theme of “My Driver-My Safety Hero!” Also, in attendance were Christina Kishimoto, school superintendent with the Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE), Assistant Superintendent Dann Carlson and State Director of Transportation James Kauhi. They were joined by representatives of school bus contractor Roberts Hawaii and Ground Transport, as well as TransPar Group of Companies.
Ige recognized school bus driver Olga Kahele Leota of Roberts Hawaii for keeping her elementary students safe during an Aug. 8 shootout between burglary suspects and police on Kamehameha Highway, which is located northwest of Honolulu. Mark Lindstrom, general manager of TransPar’s Hawaii office, told STN that Leota performed “a marvelous job” and made a “brilliant response” during the shooting.
“She was behind the wheel of her school bus when a police gunfight broke out at the Crouching Lion restaurant in Kaaawa back in August and did everything she could in keeping her students calm and, more importantly, safe during the entire incident,” recounted Lindstrom. “Her bravery and clear thinking were instrumental in exhibiting her professionalism and why at any time, any bus driver may be placed in harm’s way and it is their actions that make them, ‘My safety hero.’”
Added Carlson: “I would just encourage the keiki (children) when they’re on the bus, to listen to the bus driver, stay in their seats, do all those things that the bus drivers tell you to do.”
Carlson also pointed out that there are over 650 school bus drivers in Hawaii who transport 38,000 students each school day. “School Bus Safety Week is an excellent opportunity to remind our school communities of the measures they can take to help keep these students safe.”
Kauhi commissioned the “My Safety Hero” poster from local artist Hank Taufaasau. It depicts school buses and children in front of the downtown Honolulu Theater.
“It’s not often you see a yellow school bus in artwork, and Hank managed to feature three school buses and the transit bus,” Lindstrom added. “Hank also brought the original oil painting to the ceremony, and Gov. Ige was gracious enough to take a few pictures with him. In addition to each school receiving posters, each school bus driver and monitor across the islands received a poster as a small token of their dedication to the children of Hawaii.”
TransPar Hawaii contracts with HIDOE to provide contract performance reviews of school bus companies, routing via Transfinder and SafeStop, plus onsite training, and the school bus driver and aide safety programs. It also partnered with HIDOE to equip all school buses statewide with GPS and video surveillance cameras. Also includes was the Transfinder Infofinder i online school bus stop locator and bus schedule web application.