Contractors Celebrate Bus Drivers, Staff for ‘Love the Bus’

Transportation South lauded the 2015 Alabama “Love the Bus” Driver of the Year at a celebration Wednesday. Winner Penny Pearson is flanked by Joe Lightsey, at left, and George “Bucky” Law, Jr., who head up Transportation South.

The annual “Love the Bus” event launched by the American School Bus Council could also be called “Love the Bus Drivers” as so many of this week’s celebrations shined a light on the important role transportation staff play every day.

On Feb. 11 Transportation South, Inc. in hosted the fifth annual “Love the Bus” celebration that honored Alabama’s best school bus drivers as voted by the students, parents and teachers they serve. Elmore County School District Bus Driver Penny Pearson won top honors as the 2015 Alabama “Love the Bus” Driver of the Year, out of some 30 drivers who were nominated.

More than 100 school and community leaders attended to show their support of the finest drivers in the state, “our school bus drivers,” said the company. Alabama’s largest school bus provider treated guests to a barbecue lunch and cake.

Joe Lightsey, Transportation South’s school bus market development manager, spoke about the industry’s incredible track record for safety both nationwide and within the state of Alabama. Lightsey is the former state director of transportation with the Alabama State Department of Education.

Company President Bucky Law said each school system was asked to nominate a school bus driver who portrays love for his or her job, school and students for consideration.

“School bus drivers play a critical role in the lives and education of the nation’s students, and the ‘Love the Bus’ program is a fun way for us to recognize their dedication,” added Law.

First Student, the nation’s largest school bus contractor, is widening its spotlight during Love the Bus Month and beyond to focus on not only school bus drivers but also the monitors, managers and technicians that make up the Customer Care team. The company is stressing the importance of fostering good bus behavior through an initiative titled, “I Care + We Care = Customer Care.”

The ongoing initiative sets simple age-appropriate behavior expectations for students and provides positive reinforcement tools for good behavior, including award certificates and stickers. The goal is to make sure children arrive at school feeling safe, respected and ready to learn.

“We recognize the opportunity we have to directly and positively impact each student’s day. Our people take that responsibility very seriously,” said Dennis Maple, First Student president.

Gary Catapano, First Student senior vice president of safety, stressed how important it is for children to feel safe and respected on the school bus.
“Using our insight, expertise and resources, we are striving to build more positive relationships between bus drivers, students and the broader communities we serve,” said Catapano. “The interactions students have on the bus can impact how they treat one another throughout the day, as well as how they behave in the classroom.

Founded in 2007 by the ASBC, the “Love the Bus” program is celebrated on Valentine’s Day and throughout February in school districts across the country as a way to raise awareness and appreciation for the hundreds of thousands of school bus drivers who safely transport more than 26 million students to and from school each day.