HomeEvent NewsGeorgia Student Transporter Wins TSD Trip

Georgia Student Transporter Wins TSD Trip

Cathy Benson couldn’t believe it when her number was called.

“When they called ‘531,’ I looked and said, ‘That’s me!'” the director of transportation for Clarke County School District in Athens, Georgia told School Transportation News.

She was referring to an STN drawing during the NAPT Summit trade show in Kansas City on Nov. 11. Throughout the day, booth visitors played a version of the game “Plinko,” made famous by the game show “The Price Is Right.” NAPT Summit attendees dropped circular “chips” down slots on a board to win a certain number of raffle tickets.

Toward the conclusion of the trade show, STN staff held a random drawing to award free registration to both the TSD Conference in March and the STN EXPO in July. Benson’s number was drawn for the all-expenses-paid trip to Frisco, Texas for the 24th annual transportation conference focusing on students with disabilities and preschoolers. (Benson, shown in the picture below, was among a large group of attendees who played Plinko at the STN booth at the 40th annual NAPT Summit.)

“Now I can take my special needs supervisor, who normally doesn’t get to go,” Benson added.

Actually, it’s been three years since Benson has been to the TSD Conference because of budget constraints. Instead of attending herself, she sent her training coordinator and the district’s risk manager for the district’s Early Learning Center program.

Of the 9,000 students Clarke County transports, Benson said 200 students who are four years old attend Pre-K, Early Head Start, Head Start and preschool special education programs at the Early Learning Center. Additionally, about 820 pre-kindergarten students are bused to local elementary schools.

Benson became the director of transportation in Clarke County in July 2009 and attended the NAPT Summit that fall. It wasn’t until 2011 that she was able to attend the TSD Conference. Because Clarke County transports so many preschoolers and special needs students, the district’s Office of Early Learning sent her and the risk manager.

“Of course, our budget is always is an issue. We’re very fortunate here, though, that we have a great grant program,” she noted. “One thing is being able to make sure the students get on the appropriate buses based upon their (special) needs.”

She said she’s relatively new to overseeing the transportation of special education and preschool students despite being in the industry for about 30 years, which makes attendance at the TSD Conference even more important.

stnbooth-napt14-WebNAPT Summit trade show attendees gather in front of the STN booth to await for the raffle to begin. The grand prizes were all-expenses-paid trips to the TSD Conference in March and the STN EXPO in July.“It offered a wealth of knowledge,” she recalled. “It was a very enlightening conference.”

Benson started her career as a substitute bus driver, then as a full-time driver of regular education students. She rose the ranks to lead driver in 1991 and then became field coordinator for Cobb County School District. She wanted to become a supervisor, even telling her supervisor at the time, Glenn Bloodworth, that she wanted his job when he asked her what she saw herself eventually doing for the district. But she didn’t have a degree. Bloodworth, who passed away this past February, and Ed Crook, another former Cobb County supervisor who now works at 247 Security, encouraged her and even helped her with applications.

Benson enrolled at Kennesaw State University in the summer of 1992 while she continued driving the school bus, and graduated in December of 1998. That same month she became a transportation supervisor at Cobb County and later served as a senior supervisor before being hired at Clarke County in July 2009. 

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