Gwinnett bus drivers honored at awards banquet

DULUTH - Gwinnett County Public Schools has two types of employees: those who teach and those who support teaching, Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said.

The school district on Monday honored a group of employees who support teaching by safely transporting more than 121,000 children to and from school.

"This is the one night a year we get to say in a more formal manner thank you for everything you do every day for all of the children in Gwinnett County," Transportation Director Grant Reppert said during the 11th annual Bus Manager and Monitor of the Year awards banquet.

The 27 regular education bus managers, nine special-needs bus managers and nine bus monitors honored Monday evening were nominated for the awards by their peers. The nominees took a series of tests, the scores of which determined the finalists. Judges then scored the finalists during a ride-along.

Harry Brewer said he was shocked when he was named the Regular Education Bus Manager of the Year.

"The competition was tough, and there's a lot of good candidates," he said.

Brewer, who works in the Collins Hill cluster, said he does the job for the children.

"It's all about the children that we drive every day," Brewer said. "It gets me up, gets me going and makes me very enthusiastic about this job."

Donna Zarco was named the Special Needs Bus Manager of the Year. She said working with special-0needs children is rewarding, and she felt "very, very grateful" to receive the award.

Karen Ford was named the Bus Monitor of the Year.

"I feel truly blessed," she said. "I love kids. I love working with kids ... and I love using my God-given abilities to help people."

Brewer and Zarco each received a $1,000 award, and Ford received a $500 award. The other eight finalists received $100, and the remaining nominees received $50. The cash awards were paid for by event sponsors.