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Two UCPS bus drivers reflect on years behind the wheel

Doris Russell looks over the work of one of her bus riders, first-grader Liliya Pavliuc. (Below) John Paul Hinson holds Valentine cards he got from students who ride his bus. He explains what they are to one of his bus riders, kindergarten student Ben Viola.

Every day, 315 Union County Public Schools yellow buses travel more than 30,000 miles, carrying approximately 24,000 children to school and then safely home again in the afternoon.

In honor of a national movement that declares February “Love the Bus Month,” UCPS would like to recognize and honor its 383 full-time and substitute bus drivers and its 102 safety assistants.

The following spotlights two bus drivers who exemplify the dedication that makes these caring individuals so appreciated by the school system, parents and the thousands of students who ride their buses daily.

Doris Russell

Doris Russell couldn’t have known that when she became a school bus driver in 1975, she would impact the lives of thousands of children for more than 40 years.

She started driving a bus and working in the lunchroom because of her two sons.

“I started with the school system in 1973,” she said. “I worked in the lunchroom two years before I started driving a bus. I wanted to be home when my boys were home. I didn’t want anyone else looking after them in the summer time. I wanted to be the one.”

When she started driving the bus, however, she continued her job in the lunchroom. “I started working when my youngest son started kindergarten. I thought I would just be there until he got out of Shiloh Elementary. He rode the bus with me. But then the grandkids road my bus, so then I didn’t want to retire until my grandson went to the middle school, because he was on my route. He’s now a senior in high school.”

In all the years she’s driven, Doris said she has never had an accident. “Someone hit me one time, but it didn’t damage the bus,” she said.

She says it’s not difficult to drive a bus. “It just takes time and practice,” she said. “At first, I was a little nervous. It took me about six weeks before I felt comfortable driving a bus. The first time I drove a bus, all the kids were talking and I felt like I was in a chicken house. But you get used to that. You tune a lot of that out.”

Doris plans to retire from the school system at the end of March, just prior to her 76th birthday. She said she is very fond of her bus riders and will miss them when she retires. “I’ll miss a lot of my kids. I couldn’t drive all these many years if I wasn’t so fond of them.”

And from the enthusiasm the students show her when they stepped onto her bus everyday, it’s apparent that she will be sorely missed.

John Paul Hinson

John Paul Hinson turned 84 this year. He loves his job and has no immediate plans to retire. He started as a mechanic in the Transportation Department in August of 1955.

He remembers first driving a school bus when he was 16, a student at Unionville High School. “Back then, the buses were designed much differently,” he said. “They operated on gasoline rather than diesel like is recommended today.”

As for his contributions to the Transportation Department, Hinson remembers implementing assigned parking spots for the buses around the mid 1990s. This helped him identify which buses were leaking oil.

“If one would get to leaking, you couldn’t tell which one was leaking the way they were parked,” he said.

Long-time bus driver Doris Russell remembers Hinson as going above and beyond to make sure she got to her students on time in the morning.

“He used to come to my house when my bus wouldn’t crank,” Doris said. “I also worked in the lunch room, so I couldn’t be late. He told me if my bus ever didn’t crank, he would come straight to my bus (at my house) rather then going on to the bus garage.”

In 2000, he retired from the Transportation Department as a mechanic and got back behind the wheel driving. “It’s much cleaner,” he said comparing his role as a bus mechanic to that of a bus driver.

“I enjoy the children,” he said. “All of them have different personalities."

He also reflects on the differences in attitudes of students today. “Back then, kids didn’t listen like they do now,” Hinson said. “And when I first started driving the bus, it had seats down the sides and down the center. They sat back to back facing the

One of the perks of working in a school is witnessing the generosity of students from kindergarten on through high school. Case in point, this past Valentine’s Day, Hinson received cards from hundreds of students.

“I thought that was so nice,” he said. “Each student had something written on them.”

One hand written note from a student read, “You are so nice and I love your smile,” the note from Haley said. “I think you are so smart. When your phone rings, you don’t answer it. That’s amazing. I’m just so thankful for you because of everything. You pick me up and drive me to school. Every afternoon, you’re at Porter Ridge on time, pick me up and take me home. I think you’re one of the most important people at this school.”

As for how long Hinson plans to drive a bus, well, that remains to be seen. “I’ve enjoyed my life so far,” he said. “Good Lord’s been good to me. I plan on keep working as long as I am able to get around and enjoy it.”

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Feb 25, 2015 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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