Best of the bus: Drivers honored by school system

DULUTH - Every school day, bus drivers are expected to pick up children from their neighborhoods and transport them safely so students can arrive to class on time.

Other than that, little is known about the school system employees who are trusted to carry such precious cargo.

Gwinnett County Public Schools on Monday recognized members of its transportation department and honored the county's top bus managers and monitors.

Jamie Martin was named the system's regular-education bus manager of the year. Susan Sisson was named the special-needs bus manager of the year, and Charlene Coleman was named the bus monitor of the year.

"It's not really what you do, but it's the difference you make," Gwinnett Schools Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said at the dinner banquet at Winfield Hall. "Remember the people you work with appreciate what you do. The board members appreciate what you do. I appreciate what you do. Principals appreciate what you do."

Bus managers and monitors were nominated for the award by their peers, who picked the person who could represent everyone in their zone, said Grant Reppert, the system's transportation director. The nominees then took a series of written tests and range tests, and judges rode along on their routes.

Martin said the award was "icing on the cake."

"Every day is a different piece of the cake," he said. "We have 1,500 bus drivers. Each one of them could have won this award."

Sisson said she was honored for something that "is just a part of my life."

"It's something I do every day, have done for 17 years, and I love it," she said.

Coleman complimented the county for the training they provide their employees and for honoring employees of the Transportation Department.

"It lets us know they're really looking out for us," she said.

Sector manager Vickie Otting and Supervisor Sandra Williams were also honored for their work. Both recently obtained their bachelor's degrees.

Two supervisors were also honored for having safe zones. Hazel Stephens, who works in a zone near Lawrenceville, and Tammy Keller, who works in a zone near Mill Creek, each had only one reportable accident in their zones during the 2005-06 school year.