It would be easy for Simone Clowers to have a big head about the Broward County Public Schools transportation department. After all, there is a lot to brag about.
Pre-pandemic, the district bused the most students a day of any Florida school district at nearly 78,000 on over 900 buses. While that number has fallen to about 58,000 students this school year, according to a district spokesperson, Clowers continues to oversee the daily operations for one of the biggest school districts in the nation.
Despite that, she said she believes it is important to be humble and to be willing to learn from others.
Clowers has spent most of her career in leadership roles within transportation, coming to Broward County in 2014 after working as an operations manager for FedEx Ground. She now oversees day-to-day bus operations and about 800 employees, mostly drivers and attendants, and has four direct reports. An important goal for Clowers is to make her department a positive and fun place to work.
“To be successful, I would say it is important to have good communications and a humble attitude. I have an eagerness to learn from anyone about anything. We show our new hires the benefits of working here,” she added.
Read about other accomplished women in the student transportation industry.
Clowers began her career with Broward as a student clerk while attending St. Thomas Aquinas High School. She received some high school credits for her job, and she gained valuable work experience. Over time, she served in various departments. She handled field trips, clerical support, benefits and worker’s compensation. She then left to work for FedEx but returned to Broward Schools after about four years. She was a training supervisor and in November was named to her current position.
“There are no limits to what Dr. Clowers can accomplish,” commented Rolando Alvarez, Broward County Public Schools executive director of student transportation and fleet services. “She has grown within our district’s student transportation department to her current role as a manager—overseeing training, serving as a spokesperson when needed, managing all staff, developing relationships as a community liaison, and overseeing daily transportation operations districtwide. She is always willing to take on new challenges and do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Lessons Learned From Nation’s
Deadliest High School Shooting
One of the humbling experiences at Broward County Schools occurred on Feb. 14, 2018, when a former student opened fire at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and killed17 people while wounding 17 others. Transportation Operations Manager Simone Clowers was a transportation training supervisor for the district at the time. She recalled that buses were at the school and students were boarding at the time of the shooting.
The incident resulted in many security upgrades districtwide, including checking in with a security guard when arriving at any school campus parking lot before being allowed near the building. But for transportation, Clowers said the most important has been the implementation of “See something, say something.”
In addition to conducting emergency evacuation drills with students on the buses, she said all drivers are expected to learn emergency protocols such as code red and code yellow, which are put in place during emergencies such as shootings. The buses themselves are also used in any emergency situation to evacuate students.
Clowers added that about 85 percent of Broward’s 900 route buses now have video surveillance cameras.
Education and hard work are important to Clowers, and she attributed those qualities to lessons she learned from her mother. Clowers earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Central Florida and said she knew she wanted to pursue more education. Clowers obtained a master’s degree in business administration from Kaplan University and a doctorate degree in performance improvement and leadership development from Capella University. She is continuing to pursue leadership training and provide it, as she is also a training facilitator for Development Dimensions International in the Miami area.
At Broward County Schools, Clowers said she wants new hires to know that with hard work and a desire to serve others, success is possible. “When I go into a new hire class about talk about my experience in transportation, I tell them they will have to work long hours,” she shared. “I believe it is important to stop at nothing to help customers and make sure that everyone has a pleasant experience.”
She added she wants drivers to know there are plenty of opportunities to gain more education.
“I tell them that when they are not driving, they can be working to gain more education. The opportunities are there. I was able to do it and they can do it, too,” said Clowers.
Clowers added that she wants to brand school transportation as a fun place to work. One way of doing this, she suggested, is to improve conflict resolution and show people how important it is to transport kids. “Our drivers are here by choice, and they love what they do, and they love kids. I am working hard, and I want to be there for them,” she said.
If a conflict or issue arises, Clowers relayed that she asks the people involved to talk about it and figure out where the fault lines are. “I act as a sounding board. We look at the facts and work on getting to the root of the problem. We sit down and work through it. We look for a way to come to a resolution,” she said.
Other benefits extended to Broward staff include a $300 employee referral bonus and positive mental health support. “And we have fireside chats with employees to help them achieve their career goals, even if it means leaving our department,” said Clowers. “We want to encourage people to pursue their educational and career goals.
“The beauty of becoming a bus operator is that it allows for quality of life and the drivers can either work extra hours or pursue other educational or career options,” she concluded.
Editor’s note: An original version of the is article incorrectly stated the date of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
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