“When tomorrow comes, today will be gone forever,” author and pastor Max Lucado wrote. “While it is here, I will use it for loving and giving. Today, I will make a difference.” Kristy Drewitz, transportation coordinator for Madison-Grant United School Corporation in Fairmount, Indiana, said this quote has stuck with her and sculpted her day-to-day life working in pupil transportation.
Drewitz said there are days in the school transportation industry that can be challenging, but she encouraged her fellow professionals to never be afraid to ask for help from co-workers or supervisors. She added that pairing novice drivers with veteran drivers can also be very beneficial as it will help rookie drivers navigate some of those initial “woes.”
“Everything that we do has an impact,” Drewitz advised. “Whether that impact affects people in my personal or professional life, it is important to me that I always do my absolute best to serve others in a loving and giving way. Everyone has value and importance and should be treated as such.”
Drewitz added that good communication is vital to having a connection with drivers, school staff and the families being transported. In fact, she frequently turns to long-time school bus driver Kathy Ellis, who has worked for the district for the past 38 years, to share her invaluable wisdom in transportation as well as in life.
“Whenever I consider making changes in transportation, I run my ideas by Kathy and get her insight,” Drewitz explained.
She also recommended that good communication and preparation can ward off confusion, and reassure families that their child’s best interest is at heart.
“Students on the bus will in a sense become your kids, and you may be the only positive person they encounter during that particular day,” she advised to those entering the student transportation industry. “Try to make the best of every interaction you have with your students and show them that they matter to you.”
Drewitz Throughout Her Career
Drewitz is going on her 18th year at Madison-Grant United School Corporation. She started volunteering in the classrooms while her children were in school. However, she was soon hired as an educational assistant. Drewitz said the position was a good fit for her family’s schedule at the time. For the past 15 years, she has served in various roles bus it currently focused solely on school transportation.
She said during this time one of her greatest accomplishments was obtaining her Class B commercial driver’s license (CDL), as she can get behind the wheel to help her co-workers. “It has also enabled me to better understand the challenges our drivers face,” Drewitz added.
Having her CDL is especially helpful amid the ongoing school bus driver shortage. Drewitz said she finds herself driving bus routes on a near-daily basis, while also balancing other aspects of being a transportation coordinator.
“My drivers are very cognizant of the driver shortage and don’t ask for time off unless it is absolutely necessary,” Drewitz explained. “That bothers me as a supervisor. I don’t want my drivers feeling guilty about needing a day off.”
She added throughout the past 15 years she’s inherited a group of seasoned drivers and she said some of those drivers have retired or passed away. She said that loss is not only hard professionally but personally.
In addition to the driver shortage, hiring new drivers has also been a challenge because of the part-time hours. Many potential applicants usually discover they need more income than what they would earn driving a bus, Drewitz explained.
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In addition, she said COVID-19 has brought on its own set of challenges by causing districts to make changes in the way they transport students. Student management and bus behavior have also become more difficult over the years, she added.
However, despite the challenges, Drewitz said it’s the small, rural farming community and her school corporation as a whole that keeps her the industry. “The community truly cares about our school corporation and is very supportive of our students and staff,” she explained. “The community rallies together when there is a student or family in need. It is such a giving community and I feel blessed to be a part of that and serve them by providing transportation for our students. It is the students and community that keep me in the industry.”
Going forward, she said, Madison-Grant United School Corporation will continue to provide the best possible services to students and the surrounding community. She said she will adapt to changes as needed as they pertain to student transportation. Plus, Drewitz concluded, she will continue to be a support to her drivers and students during these changing and uncertain times.