Gary York’s words perfectly summed up the first-ever Bus Driver Appreciation Banquet held at Meadowview Middle School on Thursday.
“We trust you (bus drivers) without reservation,” comment York. “It’s is an unconditional thing. You have so much heart.”
Surry County Schools Assistant Superintendent Charles Graham II opened the banquet by pointing out that county bus drivers represent the single largest transportation force on roads between 6 and 8 a.m. in Surry County. Graham said that he lives only two minutes from work but passes 11 buses on his morning commute. Graham said he looks at drivers’ faces.
“Most times you’re smiling,” Graham told the audience. “You are the first and last person representing Surry County Schools for students.”
Dobson Elementary’s Billy Dobbins was named School Bus Driver of the Year. Dobbins is a 1979 graduate of Surry Central and grew up and still resides in Twin Oaks. He began driving a school bus his junior year of high school for Surry Central High and Dobson Elementary. Dobbins also received a safe driving certificate for 33 years.
School bus drivers and administrators at their respective schools nominate the candidates for the honor yearly, and Mount Airy and Elkin also are included. The criteria for the 2011-12 school bus driver of the year are dependability, punctuality, professionalism toward students, parents and staff, student discipline, route efficiency, communication, perception, altruism, cleanliness of school bus and no accidents for the current year. Larry Wall of East Surry High School, the 2010-2011 winner, also was recognized.
A total of 20 school bus drivers were nominated. The other nominees were Mike Lowe, Reed Kozlow, Grover Cropps, Barry White, B.D. Reece, Doretha Moore, Alison Jones, Becky Smith, Harold Creasey, Andrew Draughn, Debbie Money, Audine Royall, Louvenia Fields, Walter Nichols, Wayne Edmonds, Jackie Fulk, Nancy Potter, Ralph “Mo” Morris and Lynn Quesinberry.
Surry County Schools Transportation Director Rodney Hardy pointed out that bus drivers transport 6,000 students to school and back home traveling almost 7,000 miles a day without having an accident. The audience gave the drivers a standing ovation following that comment.
A total of 19 drivers were recognized for driving from more than 20 years without an accident. In addition to Dobbins, the drivers with the most years were: Karen Lewis, 37 years; Larry Wall, 34 years; and Jane Martin, 30 years. Three drivers were recognized for 29 years accident free. They are the late Clinton Hunt, Allison McMillian and Tim Burton.
Other drivers recognized for safe driving are Joyce Key, 27 years; Betty Kidd, Audine Royall and Bertha Whitaker, all with 26 years; Andrew Draughn, Deborah Money and Sandra Moore with 24 years each; Page Hudson, B.D. Reece, Shirley Payne and Doretha Moore with 22 years each; and Mike Lowe with 21 years.
Surry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Ashley F. Hinson recognized Gary and Charlotte York for making the event possible. He explained the idea for the banquet came from a conversation between he and York.
“Everybody understands how difficult your job is,” Hinson told the drivers. “Not everyone shows you how much they appreciate you.”
The Surry County Schools Jazz Band entertained the banquet participants. Driver Mike Lowe of Cedar Ridge Elementary School was the speaker for the event. A well-known local humorist and story teller, Lowe did not disappoint the audience.
“The first problem with driving a bus is that every time you stop the bus and open the doors, children get on,” joked Lowe. “A three-dollar hasp on the inside of the door will solve the problem.”
Lowe also pointed out that school bus drivers spend a remarkable amount of time looking backward while driving forward. He also questioned the wisdom of having yellow school buses. Lowe asked why have a bus the same color as a caution light that everyone cusses and tries to out run.
Lowe also joked that adding side mounted paint ball guns on buses in addition to surveillance cameras would help identify cars threatening buses.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.