When Dale County Schools bus driver Charles Poland was killed earlier this year
, I was shocked and very saddened along with countless members of the pupil transportation community.
In the months since that tragic encounter between Poland and gunman Jimmy Lee Dykes, the district has been working to recover, as SBF
Executive Editor Thomas McMahon reported in a Q&A with Donny Bynum, superintendent for the Midland City, Ala., district
A big step was recently made on the road to recovery: a new Dale County Schools bus driver has been assigned to Poland’s former route. The Dothan Eagle reports
in a moving story that Melinda Campbell accepted the job. (The route has been changed slightly — Campbell does not drive her bus up the private road where Poland was shot; instead, the bus stops closer to a highway.)
Campbell spoke highly of Poland to the newspaper, saying, “He did such a wonderful job with the kids because had he not been as loving and as experienced and wonderful as he was, I don’t think they would have warmed up to me the way they have.”
She went on to say that over time, she and the students have connected by talking about Poland. In addition, with the help of the students, Campbell named her 3-month-old bulldog "Miss Poly" in honor of Poland.
For his part, Bynum told The Dothan Eagle
that one reason Campbell was chosen for Poland’s route is because of her demeanor.
"We prayed that God would put someone there that would love those children like Mr. Poland did," Bynum said. “We thank God for Ms. Melinda, and her love has filled the gap and certainly helped in the healing process.”
This story got me thinking about how pupil transportation operations cope with tragedy.
Also earlier this year, we reported
on the Stewart County Schools transportation team’s fight against cancer.
In 2009, the Dover, Tenn., district’s former transportation supervisor, Francis Carson, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer. He died 16 months later.
During Carson’s treatment, three other transportation employees were diagnosed with colon (or colorectal) cancer. One of them was Eric Watkins, Carson’s assistant director, who had taken on much of the day-to-day operations.
On top of that, one of the district’s drivers lost his battle with lung cancer in 2011.
In 2010, the department decided to raise funds in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. That effort has continued in subsequent years.
“Last year, our drivers and students raised over $4,000 for the battle against cancer,” Watkins, now the district’s transportation supervisor, told SBF
. “This all happened in a district with only 37 drivers.”
We often hear that the employees at pupil transportation operations are like a family. I would imagine, then, that the death of a colleague — due to cancer or another reason — would be very difficult.
If this is an issue that has impacted your district or bus company, what helped your team in the healing process? If the loss was a bus driver who was close to his or her passengers, what helped the students in the healing process?
Post a comment below or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time,
| posted on Monday, July 08, 2013 12:03 PM