Each year, nearly one million students and their parents rely on Georgia’s school buses – and the professionals who operate them – to provide safe and dependable transportation to and from school.
To emphasize the importance of safe school buses and recognize pupil transportation professionals, State School Superintendent Richard Woods has announced the winners of the Georgia Department of Education’s second annual Pupil Transportation Safety Awards. Sixteen Georgia school systems (listed at the bottom of this release) were recognized for going above and beyond to ensure safe and efficient student transportation. The award is sponsored by Blue Bird, Georgia’s school bus manufacturer, and Yancey Bus Sales & Service.
“Our pupil transportation professionals are entrusted with precious cargo, and work incredibly hard each day to make sure Georgia’s students arrive at school safe and ready to learn,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “These sixteen districts are going above and beyond to ensure student safety and recognize the school bus as an extension of the overall climate and culture of a school. I thank them for their efforts and commend them for their work.”
Winners were selected in eight divisions based on enrollment size. The winning districts were selected by a panel of judges, based on an application which evaluated a number of factors that impact bus safety. Those factors included but are not limited to: completing safety training, evacuation drills, and other safety initiatives with students; evaluation of accidents and internal practices to prevent accidents; and innovative initiatives used to inspire safe practices, hire and retain drivers, and enhance student safety.
2019 Pupil Transportation Safety Awards – Winners
Division 1 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between zero and 1,260)
Blue Award Winner – Towns County Schools
Towns County Schools utilizes a team-oriented approach, with school bus drivers and school administrators coming together to provide positive behavior management. Drivers are required to exceed the state-mandated 12 hours of driver instruction to ensure the focus remains on safety.
Green Award Winner – Treutlen County Schools
In Treutlen County, drivers typically have more hours of supervised behind-the-wheel training than is mandated by the state. Student bus safety curriculum, bus evacuation training, and bullying prevention are all taught through PE classes by regular route bus drivers. Drivers receive $10,000 of life insurance at no cost to them, which aids in driver retention.
Division 2 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between 1,260 and 1,799)
Blue Award Winner – Atkinson County Schools
Atkinson County Schools pays drivers to participate in training activities to focus on safety. New drivers receive a bonus after being hired and driving 20 days. To combat the driver shortage, the district encourages classified staff to become licensed and earn extra money as bus drivers and substitute bus drivers.
Green Award Winner – Clinch County Schools
Clinch County Schools emphasizes Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) to maintain positive behavior on all buses. Bus safety curriculum and bus evacuation is taught during health class. Team-building activities for safety training include breakfast/lunch to create a family atmosphere.
Division 3 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between 1,800 and 2,869)
Blue Award Winner – Mitchell County Schools
Bus drivers participated in a bus rollover drill in partnership with local EMS, local fire/rescue, police, high-school students and the Mitchell County Hospital. Students practice evacuation drills during their physical education classes during the first 45 days of school. A mentoring program utilizes veteran bus drivers, who are paired with first- and second-year drivers to ensure a focus on safety. This program also helps retain drivers.
Green Award Winner – Jefferson County Schools
Jefferson County Schools rewards its drivers through a monthly incentive bonus for perfect attendance. Drivers with perfect attendance for the semester receive an additional bonus. Bus drivers are utilized to provide bus safety instruction in the school setting, focusing on loading and unloading procedures.
Division 4 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between 2,870 and 3,649)
Blue Award Winner – Morgan County Schools
Morgan County Schools requires more driver training hours – at 15-10-10 – than the 12-6-6 mandated by the state. To combat the shrinking driver supply, a referral incentive is provided. To help retain drivers, unused sick days beyond 75 days are paid at $25 per day. A Driver of the Month program is utilized, with the following criteria: good attendance, a clean bus, good student management skills, politeness and courtesy, and an all-around good attitude. CPR training is required for all bus personnel.
Green Award Winner – Pierce County Schools
Pierce County Schools provides all new drivers with a $500 training supplement upon receipt of the CDL license. During physical education classes, CDL coaches teach safe ridership and bus emergency evacuation to all students. To assist with retention, drivers are given a local supplement which is paid the Friday before Thanksgiving break.
Division 5 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between 3,650 and 5,149)
Blue Award Winner – Madison County Schools
Madison County Schools conducts two bus evaluations per year for all schools. New pre-kindergarten students have a “Kinder Camp” class before school starts; students sit on the bus, learn about safety rules, and enjoy a ride around the block at each elementary school. CPR training is required and provided for all bus drivers. To keep the focus on driver safety, all drivers participate each year in the local bus rodeo, and the top two highest scores advance to the state competition.
Green Award Winner – Cartersville City Schools
Cartersville City Schools keeps the focus on bus and student safety by requiring all drivers to attend a fire extinguisher training session, a simulated smoke evacuation training session, and a “Stop the Bleed” and first aid training. All drivers attend a seizure/diabetic training session.
Division 6 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between 5,150 and 8,799)
Blue Award Winner – Thomas County Schools
Thomas County Schools works hard to hire and retain bus drivers, monitors, and technicians by attending local job fairs, providing free CDL training, and using the local newspaper and media for advertisement. Safety is taken seriously, going beyond the mandates of federal and state law; drivers, monitors, and students receive additional safety training during each school year. This emphasis on safety is formalized through three safety meetings held each school year, in addition to the required GaDOE Annual Safety Meeting. The school system has invested resources to establish a driver training department and hire a full-time driver trainer; this training team has created pre- and post-trip videos for driver training.
Green Award Winner – Ware County Schools
Ware County Schools focuses on safety through school bus evacuation training, the Stop the Bleed program, and requiring all drivers to be trained in CPR. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) has been implemented to help with reducing student conduct issues. To retain new drivers, incentives are paid for perfect attendance and referrals for new drivers, and several times a year appreciation breakfasts/lunches are provided.
Division 7 (districts with a full-time student enrollment between 8,800 and 19,999)
Blue Award Winner – Camden County Schools
Camden County Schools provides student and driver PBIS training, along with Stop the Bleed training. The district requires seating chart checks, posted safety guidelines on each bus, and documented evacuation drills. Driver-trainer-led classes are planned for inclement weather days, covering safe loading and unloading, railroad crossings, student discipline submission steps, and driver communication training. Creating a positive working environment impacts driver retention, so the district works to make drivers aware of expectations in advance, and remind them often with incentives for jobs well done.
Green Award Winner – Marietta City Schools
Marietta City Schools offers a $1,000 signing bonus for bus drivers/transportation employees who refer potential qualified bus drivers. The district hosts holiday functions, annual back-to-school and end-of-year celebrations, and monthly breakfast or lunch team-building activities. The S.O.A.R. (Safe, Orderly, and Respectful) Program allows the district to teach safe riding techniques with kindergarten through sixth-grade students. CPR training is required for all bus drivers, and partnerships with police, fire, and the City of Marietta have been established through meetings and training exercises.
Division 8 (districts with a full-time student enrollment above 20,000)
Blue Award Winner – Cobb County Schools
Cobb County Schools offers employees a $200 referral stipend for drivers and $100 referral stipend for monitors (for candidates who successfully complete training). To retain personnel, the district pays trainees while they are in class, and offers a $200-per-semester stipend for perfect attendance. The district created student rider lists with photos of each student to support new drivers and substitute drivers. To focus on safety, the district uses the S.O.A.R. program with emphasis on loading and unloading.
Green Award Winner – Gwinnett County Schools
To keep the focus on safety, Gwinnett County Schools requires 55 hours of classroom training, 28 hours of classroom special needs training, 20 hours of range driving without students, and 20 hours of road training with students. To stay ahead of the demand for bus drivers, the district’s transportation and information management departments are working together to develop recruiting videos. The district offers paid training, excellent benefits, and a guarantee of six working hours per day. A Puppeteer Team helps deliver school bus safety training to special needs students.