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Transportation Department: A Phenomenal Group of People

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Bus 13 MARCH 4, 2021 – Beginning this month, a WS/FCS department will be recognized with a Shout-Out for their contributions to the district. As part of that Shout-Out, the head of the department will be asked five questions.

This month’s Shout-Out goes to the Transportation Department. Cris Cox is the Executive Director of Transportation. Here are his answers to the questions:

What do you want the community (as well as your WS/FCS co-workers) to know about the department?

Every school day, most of our drivers report to work at least twice a day, are on the road by 6:00 am and often do not park until 5:00 pm.  Our drivers are responsible for managing up to 70+ students at a time while operating the school bus safely.  At no time during the school day is the ratio of students to supervision greater than when on the school bus.  Every school day, our bus drivers often work solo in a challenging environment.

Our school bus drivers are professionally trained individuals that transport our students daily.  They are often the first person representing our school system that the students will meet each day and the last at the end of the day.  But most importantly, School Bus Drivers are here for the same reason as everyone else, they enjoy working with the students and making a positive impact.  Being responsible for students, navigating traffic, working with parents, and the split shift hours make this a challenging job, but one that many of the drivers love and enjoy. The school bus driver plays a vital role in our education system and the transportation department is pleased to recognize our drivers for their service and dedication to the safety of our children.

Bus 16 How many staff members are in your department?

320 Drivers

35 Mechanics

16 Corridor Staff

12 Garage support staff

7 TCC (Transportation Communications Center) staff

Current total of around 390

Additional drivers are currently needed.

In your opinion, what is the greatest service that Transportation performs for our community?

Very similar to the first response - Provide safe and efficient transportation service to and from school for the students of Forsyth County in order for them to receive a quality educational experience that meets the five goals of our strategic plan:

Bus 3 Student Achievement

Equity & Access

Community Engagement

Human Resources Development

Climate & Safety

What kind of person would enjoy working in Transportation?

A very dependable, reliable, person with a positive attitude that enjoys working with students that can also be flexible in a challenging environment.

What might be an example of a ‘day in the life’ of a Transportation employee?

Bus Driver-Begin day around 5:30 to 6:00 a.m. with a pre-trip of their bus, receive any route updates or substitutions, begins their route which typically starts with a Middle school, then one or two Elementary schools and finish the morning with a High School with providing service to sometimes 200+ students (pre COVID) finishing up morning route around 9:00 to 9:30 a.m.

Afternoon starts around 1:30 p.m. to begin delivering students home in the afternoon with a similar schedule of serving 3 or 4 schools of middle, elementary, & high school students.

Bus 8 Mechanic - Mechanics begin their day at 5 a.m. in order to be in place for the arrival of the bus drivers and tend to any mechanical issues that arise during the pre-trip inspection. Mechanics are then available to respond to any road calls (breakdowns, accidents, etc.) that may arise while buses are in operation during the morning and afternoon. The midday portion for mechanics is filled with performing 30-day inspections (required for ALL buses that transport students in N.C.), PM (Preventive Maintenance services), and scheduled and unscheduled repairs of additional mechanical issues.

Corridor Office Staff - Supervisors and Office Assistants begin their day by working with the drivers to ensure that all routes are covered and ensure that drivers have all route updates or substitutions due to the lack of available drivers or other daily absences. The day continues by working with school-based staff, parents, and others to ensure transportation related concerns are addressed including but not limited to discipline, bus capacity, vehicle accidents, stop requests, etc.

TCC - (Transportation Communication Center) is the communication hub of the transportation department. They are in operation from 5 a.m. until the last bus parks for the day. The TCC has two dispatchers for communication with the bus drivers and mechanics and four TIMS operators who receive phone calls from schools, parents, and other individuals with transportation questions and concerns. They also process stop requests to ensure that students are able to receive a bus stop assignment. A TIMS Supervisor that oversees the day-to-day operations of the TCC and works extensively with TIMS (Transportation Information Management System) to maintain data for accuracy and reports.

Bus 11 On the morning of Thursday March 4, members of the WS/FCS Marketing and Communications Department team came to the bus lot at North Forsyth to recognize Cris Cox and such others in the department as bus drivers who had just finished their routes.

Cox said he was glad to accept the recognition for a phenomenal group of people.

“Our folks do amazing work and a lot of it’s behind the scenes,” Cox said. “It’s good for them to get some recognition for the work they do every day.”

Dennis Dawkins was one of the bus drivers who had just finished his morning routes, which, in addition to North Forsyth, include Jefferson Middle and Vienna Elementary.

After retiring as a social worker, Dennis Dawkins started driving a bus this school year to fill in the gap until he is ready to truly retire. He has thoroughly enjoyed driving.

Asked what he especially likes, he said, “The kids. My kids are grown. This keeps me in touch with people.”

It’s also a way to give back to the community, and he likes having the break between his morning and afternoon runs.

During the conversation, it came up that Dawkins is the owner of a remarkable truck. His 1982 Chevrolet pick-up has 469,000 miles on it. Blue, as he calls the truck, has taken excellent care of him along the way, he said.

Shout 12 Jeanne Jackson really likes driving a bus as well. For years, she had a job in corporate America. She was the person who answered the phone when someone was calling with a complaint.

After switching to driving a school bus, her life changed for the better.

“I enjoy driving,” Jackson.

Thomas Atwater is in his third year driving a bus. He started driving at the recommendation of his father, Thomas Atwater Sr., who works as a mechanic for the Transporation. His father was right. He does enjoy it.

“It’s very therapeutic,” Atwater said.

Asked what she likes about driving, Lonita Ferebee said, “Everything.”

Tina Lawson, who earlier this school year was responsible for one of the buses equipped with WiFi that served to help students learning remotely, also said that she loved everything about the job. It’s not just working with the students, she said.

She appreciates all the support provided by everyone in the department.

“We are a tight-knit family,” Lawson said.