Morgan Frisch/Recorder staff

Individuals who drive a bus for Fonda-Fultonville were recognized during August’s board of education meeting on Monday.

By MORGAN FRISCH

Recorder News Staff

FONDA — In the early morning hours when skies are still dark, and cold temperatures and snow are in the forecast, bus drivers are getting ready to carry some precious cargo.

Roger Hoose, a Fonda-Fultonville bus driver, said the priority is always to get the children to school and home safety.

“That’s the biggest concern and you just have to deal with whatever comes in the middle of all that,” he said.

Hoose and other drivers who are contracted through Brown’s Transportation were recognized during Monday’s Fonda-Fultonville Board of Education meeting.

“I tried to figure out how to say how much we appreciate all that you do,” Fonda-Fultonville Transportation Supervisor Donna Hayes said Monday. “It basically comes down to most people don’t know what you do so therefore they don’t understand what your job involves.”

Hayes went into detail describing how early the drivers have to get up and the checks they are required to make before heading out on their route.

“They start it and do their pre-check, which consists of walking around the outside of the bus as many as three times and going through the bus to check everything on it,” Hayes said. “Think of doing this at 6 o’clock in the morning when it’s zero degrees outside or the winds blowing.”

She said drivers try to leave the yard at the same time everyday and they always run into new situations, such a getting stuck behind a snow plow or an Amish buggy. Hayes also mentioned how drivers make sure someone is home before dropping the child off at the end of the day.

Operations Manager/Dispatcher Jerry Rulison dispatches the Fonda-Fultonville drivers to their runs everyday. He works with the school district if there are any problems, is responsible for changing routes, and drives when he needs to.

“The hardest part of the job is getting to the kids on time, getting them to school on time, in all kinds of weather and traffic problems,” he said.

Rulison said 99 percent of his drivers do this job because they love children. He said some drivers don’t say, “the kids on my bus,” they say, “my kids.”

“They are taking ownership, they are basically becoming a part-time parent sometimes to these kids and taking them under their wing,” he said.

Hayes told the board how they often request children be assigned seats and throughout the year, changes are made and children make requests to sit with someone else.

She said drivers spend a lot of time looking in the mirror throughout the ride trying to make sure everything is going well, to see whose feet are in the aisle or who is standing up to put something in the garbage.

Sometimes, Hayes said, drivers have a system with certain children where they will come outside when they see the bus from a specific window. These situations make it difficult when there is a substitute because they may not know which houses to stop directly in front of, causing children to get left behind.

Rulison said parents get used to certain drivers, and when someone new begins there can be an adjustment period.

“Once (parents) get to know you, that driver, then it becomes better but the initial getting to meet the drivers is a tough thing for them,” he said. “We are carrying their kids and some of them are going to school for the first time.”

Hoose has been driving for the district for nine years on the same run.

“I watched them come in the school, I watch them graduate,” he said Thursday. “I get along with them and I have a good bunch of kids on my run. They respect me and I respect them.”

Hoose is a retired state employee and decided to become a bus driver because he likes to drive and he likes kids. He said the hardest part of the job is getting to know the children and being ever vigilant.

“It’s the most precious cargo there is to haul around,” he said.

Rulison said bus drivers say there is an unwritten law out there that people believe they must stay in front of a school bus. He said every year there are the same people who pass them when the red lights are flashing are on. However, there are a lot of parents who respect the drivers that take their children to school. He even has one driver who has been working for 30 years.

“They protect them on the bus as much as they possibly can as if they are their own children,” he said.

Hayes told the board Monday driving a school bus is a huge responsibility that requires patience, understanding, driving skills and being able to multi-task.

“We appreciate the people that drive for Fonda,” she said. “They are all dedicated people who honestly care for our students and look out for them everyday.”

Superintendent Thomas Ciaccio agreed.

“These guys drive through anything to get our kids here safely and do a wonderful job,” he said.