Hancock County Schools Special Needs Bus Driver, Donald York, asks for drivers to please be aware that the 2022/2023 school year has begun, and the buses are back on the roads.
“When you see those big yellow lights – it means slow down and get ready to stop,” he said.
The children on all of the school buses are the most important people in the County and we must protect them as best we can, he emphasized.
Donald has driven the special needs school buses full-time for 14 years, and 16 years total for HC Schools. His first 2 years he was a substitute driver.
Angie Brown is starting her seventeenth year as a monitor on the special needs buses, and is the monitor on his bus.
There are 3 special needs buses. “We have it divided up, and the 3 drivers take care of all 4 of the schools,” Donald said.
One bus drives South Hancock students and brings them from the South area to HCMS and HCHS. Donald’s bus has students who go to North Hancock Elementary, HCMS, and HCHS.
The third bus transports students to and from NHES, HCMS, and HCHS. There are around 5-12 students who ride on each of the special needs buses. Approximately 60 students ride on each of the regular buses. Carla Stinnett and Pam Hendrickson are the other two special needs drivers.
Donna Wall is Carla’s monitor, and Terry Morris is Pam’s monitor. Bryce Duncan is the Transportation Manager. The Secretary and Driver Trainer is Teresa Sexton. She trains the drivers and monitors.
“There is always need for help,” Donald said. “The State requires that all of the monitors be trained in specific areas for special needs.”
If you’re interested in driving or monitoring for HC Schools, go to the bus garage behind HCHS and talk with Teresa Sexton.
The training required to become a driver includes taking the CDL Test, getting your permit, 3-6 weeks of book work, and driving and written tests.
Special needs drivers must be certified in safe crisis management and safe school training.
All of the drivers are required to have CPR & First Aid training, every year. Med training is a requirement, as there are students who have medication with them that is a necessity in certain situations. The State requires an 8 hour update every year as well, which consists of meeting with many other districts, where speakers go over different topics.
The special needs of the students can range from educational, behaviorial and physical. “We have to be trained to be able to deal with a situation that could become an emergency quickly for us, with one of our students,” Angie said. “We’re driving the County’s most important cargo,” Donald said. “They are the most precious people in the County.”He encourages you to get trained and be a part of their team. “Hancock County Schools’ transportation is transporting tomorrow’s future today. Join us in building the future; come drive with us,” he said.
“We could use substitute drivers and bus monitors,” Angie said. “Because it’s been rough the last 2 years…Our busing system could use help.”
Their day starts at 5:00 a.m. “We have to pre-trip the whole bus to make sure it is safe for students and safe to be on the highway before we ever even pull out of the garage,” Donald said.
The pre-trip takes 20-25 minutes each morning and includes making sure the tires have good tread and are aired up, checking slack adjusters, oils, belt, making sure all of the air lines are connected, checking the escape hatches, making sure the alarms work, and a light check to make sure every light is operating properly.
They also do a check in the afternoon before they leave for the day.
“It is rewarding,” Angie said. “We’ve had children get on the bus and we’ve actually seen these same children graduate.
From kindergarten all the way to graduation, it’s rewarding to see them change as they do over the years, and make that final walk down that aisle of the bus, step off and they’re grown up…they’re gone.
We have created some special bond relationships with some of our students. We’ve taken them to dinners, movies, and we’ve been to their homes for birthday parties.
We don’t just look at our job as Monday-Friday during the school year. We try to be mentors.
We’re the first people those children see – that starts their school day, and we’re the last person they see – that ends their school day.”
They get invited to events that the students are in after school sometimes. “When we can, we try to go,” Angie said. “It shows the students that we do care and that we want to see them excel and succeed as well as anybody else.
Those that have disabilities, they need just as much love as anybody else, if not more.
They are some of the sweetest, kindest people that you’ll find. They have hearts of gold. They love unconditionally.”
Angie has studied sign language books over the years in order to communicate with nonverbal students. “It’s always about finding what each student needs. Every student is different,” she said.
“We try to adjust to the needs of the student,” Donald said.
Angie has raised 4 of her own children while working as a bus monitor, and said that it allowed her to not miss anything.
“This type of job is good for parents who have children in the school system. You work when your child is at school and you’re home when they’re out of school. It has enabled me to be a part of everything that was going on in my children’s lives. I am thankful. It’s been a blessing to have this job.”
Donald is blessed with 2 adult children, and his job allowed him to drive on every cross-country track meet that they competed in.
“I did not miss anything at all, when it came to the sports that they were in,” he said. “I’m really grateful that I got to do all that. Because a lot of parents can’t do all those trips and get to see every event their children are in.”
When he first started driving as a substitute, he drove every route in the County, including preschool.
He said that a month ago, he went to a restaurant in Owensboro, and saw a student who is now 21 that he had driven to preschool when she was only 3 or 4. She recognized him and ran up and hugged him.“That made me feel awesome,” he said. “Whether you know it or not, you make a big impact on some of those children.”
By Jennifer Wimmer