Ella Banks has yellow blood running through her veins.
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Banks started working as a school bus driver for Lamar Consolidated Independent School District in Texas 40 years ago this August. Her mom, Narvelene Banks was a 25-year-veteran school bus driver for the district and her sister, Wilma Banks-Mayberry, was also a driver there for 23 years.
It was this family legacy and dedication to the local community that recently led to a junior high school being named after Banks. Lamar CISD Transportation Director Mike Jones explained that the district’s communication department opens a nomination process to the community whereby they can submit names for new school buildings that are being built.
The school board, he said, then reviews the nominations and selects the names that will be used for each new elementary, middle or high school.
“The rumor is that Ellen got more nominations than anybody else,” Jones added. The district is still in the land acquisition phase for the new school, but the process is moving along.
“I was very overwhelmed when I got the news about the school, a school being named after me, a junior high school, too,” Banks said. “I never would have thought that in the 40 years [I’ve been here] that this would even take place.”
Jones added that he, too, has been in school transportation for 40 years and this is the first time he has heard of a school campus being named after a school bus driver. “I think it’s an incredible honor for Ella,” he said. “I’m just glad to have been here when it happened.”
He noted that the nominations were likely from parents that have ridden on her bus themselves, currently have kids that are riding on her bus, or both.
“I think that it speaks to the impact that she’s had on the people out there in the community,” Jones said.
Stephen Sluder, the facility manager for the Fulshear Facility where Banks is dispatched, added that Banks has had perfect attendance year after year for many years. Fulshear is one of the two transportation facilities at Lamar CISD and operates approximately 85 to 90 routes. The main hub and larger facility is in Rosenberg, which runs approximately 175 to 200 routes.
“She was on time every day because she was here every day,” he said. “And I think that speaks very highly of Ella’s work ethic.”
Jones added, “Ella’s the one that’s done the work, showing up repeatedly and building those relationships for the parents or kids. Stephen and I are just happy to have been here at the right time, in the right place and to be part of it. I’m still blown away that a school bus driver will not just have an elementary school, but a Junior High School — I think that’s kind of an added level of recognition — named after her.”
Banks said it’s her department’s culture of great bosses, coworkers and the students she transports that has kept her in the driver’s seat. Although Banks recently retired, she returned after 30 days to drive an afternoon route for the district.
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“I got tired of staying at home, I’m a person who likes to do something,” Banks said, adding that the extra income was also appreciated. “And I just really missed the kids. … I just missed the interactions with the students.”
She added that having a great leadership team also helped, as it made her decision to come back to work easier. “When you can work for bosses that have treated you good, then you don’t mind going back to help out where it’s needed.”
Jones shared that the district started the school year short by about 50 drivers but is now currently short around 30.