Foundation honors county bus drivers with perfect attendance

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Bartow County has some dedicated bus drivers.

The Bartow Education Foundation recognized 17 county bus drivers who had from one to six years of perfect attendance Wednesday morning during their safety meeting at Cass High School.

“This is a wonderful day, and I don’t know if anybody’s told you or not, but you’re the most important group we have,” BEF Executive Director Dot Frasier said. “You get our kids to school and back home safely. Your job is the only one that they never would let me do. I could not imagine never missing a day during the school year, driving a bus, but I admire those of you who do that, and we have several this morning.”

Frasier told the drivers that “God chose you to be a driver just like he chose me to do whatever I do.”

“You answered the call,” she said. “You are so dedicated, and you love your children like they were yours. You’re the first person they come in contact with in the morning, and if you smile at that child, ‘Good morning, how are you?,’ you start their day in a positive way, and thank you so much for doing that. And then at the end of the day when you’re carrying those children home — and some of them not to positive circumstances — and they get off that bus, and you say, ‘Have a good day. I love you. I’ll see you in the morning,’ that gives them hope, and thank you all for having that loving heart.”

Honored during the ceremony were:

• One year — Billy Harris, Alecia Kurtz, Jennifer Pasley, Melba Roberson, Dale Rumph, Lori Silvers and Julie Woodard.

• Two years — Tommy Coker, Jimmy Findley, Crystal Lee and Shelly Sheriff.

• Three years — Linda Beatty, Falena Campbell and Jerry Hoover.

• Five years — Danny Mitchum.

• Six years — Mike Blalock and Lee Carroll.

“Six years perfect attendance — that is fabulous,” Frasier said.

The recipients were presented a certificate, a cash award ranging from $25 for one year to $85 for six years, a candy jar filled with Spree and a Perfect Attendance Driver tag that will be mounted on the front of their bus.

“I had a driver send me a picture of a Carroll County bus that had a Perfect Attendance Driver [tag] mounted on the bumper of the bus, so all of our 17 perfect attendance folks from last year [are] going to get one of these tags,” Transportation Director Jody Elrod said. “... I thought that was a neat idea. ... We hope that we have to give about 50 or 60 of these away next year.”

Blalock, 57, who has been driving for Bartow County for 11 years, said he enjoys “the experience of being around the children” every day.

“It’s something new every year, something different,” he said. “It’s not the same old routine.”

The Cartersville resident, who drives for Clear Creek Elementary, Adairsville Middle and Adairsville High, credits his ability to work 180 days a year without missing to being self-employed.

“I’m self-employed so I’m used to having to work,” he said. “If I don’t work, I don’t make money. And driving a bus is the only job that I’ve ever had that I enjoy going to work every morning. Since I’ve graduated from high school, I’ve only had three or four jobs — not a lot — but that’s the only job I’ve ever had that I look forward to going to work.”

Carroll, who drives for White Elementary, Cass Middle and Cass High, said he likes to “help other kids enhance their learning by getting them to school on time and taking them home safely.”

The 49-year-old Cartersville resident, also with the county for 11 years, said a “balanced life” is what allows him to not miss work.

“God helps me do it,” he said.

Frasier said the 17 drivers with perfect attendance are “probably the most we’ve ever had” in one year.

“We had more first-year people, and so many of these first-year people will have the next year, and there’ll probably be one or two added to it,” she said. “But they just continue, and a lot of these people with the six and seven years have had perfect attendance before, and maybe they’d have a family emergency and have to miss one day, then they have to start all over.”

Mitchum was one such case, she said. He had perfect attendance for about 15 years but had to start over after a family emergency required him to miss one day.

“Now he’s up to five this year,” she said.

Frasier said BEF director Dan Clark, owner of Asher Realty, has sponsored the bus driver perfect attendance program since it started 17 years ago.

“When you’ve got a director like Mr. Dan Clark, I just pick up the phone, and he says, ‘Miss Dot, what do you want?’” she said. “The foundation is just so pleased to honor and do just a little bit of what we can to help these drivers, to show them that we appreciate them, and they’re such a vital part of our school system.”

Frasier said she admires the dedication that many of Bartow’s bus drivers show their riders.

“They love their children so much, and they worry about them when [the drivers are] not on the bus, and they’ve got a sub driver,” she said. “It’s just a calling to them.”

When she was principal at Emerson, Frasier said she had a driver who never missed a day but got a notice for jury duty when she had, had perfect attendance for about five years.

She went to the judge, however, and got out of it because she didn’t want a substitute driving her students.

“I don’t know what she said in that letter, but she convinced that judge that she would not be a good juror so he excused her,” Frasier said.

Bus drivers often are remembered long after their students graduate from high school, according to Frasier.

“A devoted bus driver, that student will never forget them,” she said. “Children all the time will say, ‘Oh, he was my bus driver’ because that’s the first person they come in contact with that is affiliated with school and the last person they see in the afternoon so they have a double-important role.”