My neighbor was almost as shocked as I on that morning so long ago. I was speaking briefly to my daughters school bus driver, Charles Hartley. As my neighbor pulled around the school bus to pass, Mr. Hartley shot the side window back and yelled Stop! Mr. Hartley then informed my neighbor of the consequences should she ever again try to pass his stopped school bus. He didnt do this to impress me, but because of his dedication and faith in his chosen work. That is the dedication and fortitude which is missing in many public workers.
Almost every day in the newspaper and on television, we read or hear of the failure of some public service in carrying out its mission. But, unnoticed by most, there are pubic workers who quietly live up to all expectations of conduct.
As Kobe Bryant is waking up this morning to ponder how he will explain himself, these men and women are humbly starting their day of dedicated service. They carry on a tradition which has been an unassuming part of our culture for decades. Every year, every day, and without fail these public servants go about the duty of transporting Americas future generations down the road to their destinies as doctors, lawyers, and maybe even newspaper columnists. When most of us are just beginning our day, they are already on the road carrying out their mission.
That mission is the safe transport of our children from home to school, and back again. Along the way, they also become surrogate parents of a sort. This role can be seen in the way most talk of their children. It is seen in the enthusiastic smile of Ronnie Crawford as he brings his bus to my house and shouts a hello there to my daughter. Mr. Crawfords dedication to his job, and his professional attitude, were noticed by others last year. He was honored with Special Education Bus Driver of the Year, 2002-03. It is a distinction which he lived daily for 10 years before it became official.
Officially, the safety of children on the bus route is first concern for these drivers. They realize that the safety of these children is solely dependent upon the vigilance with which they carry out their duties, and they act accordingly. But the job could not be done without the assistance of their partners, the school bus aides. Individuals play a game, but teams win championships. It is the bus driver and aide, working as a team, who win the hearts and respect of their young wards. Assistants such as Shannon Bales, who is always standing at the door of the bus to catch the hand of every child to assist them on board, are without a doubt the very backbone of the operation. They are the first symbol of authority, discipline and education that these children see every morning. It is fortunate that dedicated employees such as Ms. Bales serve in this role.
The school bus driver and aide serve another discreet function. When a child is sad, they encourage smiles. Quietly, they pick up books, papers and other objects. When a child gets on the bus, they make sure all are firmly seated before the bus moves. With these subtle actions they teach valuable lessons of law, order, and respect for authority. Such is the untold duty of the school bus driver, the first role models for our children.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote. He that respects himself is safe from others; he wears a coat of mail that none can pierce. This year in Columbia County there was a more solid symbol of respect. This year the bus drivers were given bright blue shirts with the Columbia County school system logo. They were only given one, so it cant be worn daily. No matter. The children will remember it with pride and respect long after the shirt has fallen apart. It is an image that none will pierce for the childs life.
(Dennis Jones is a Martinez resident.)
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