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Safety, compassion important for bus drivers as Johnson City Schools end year

Contributed • May 25, 2018 at 8:52 PM

When the last child was dropped off at their bus stop on Thursday afternoon, it wrapped up a busy transportation season for Johnson City Schools’ bus drivers. However, the toll of early mornings and late afternoons aren’t visible by the smiles on the driver’s faces.

T.R. Dunn is finishing his fifth year as a member of the transportation team and he said that he has thoroughly enjoyed his experiences.

“You aren’t going to get rich being a bus driver, but the rewards benefit you way beyond money,” Dunn said. “Each morning we get a chance to change a kid’s life. We are one of the first faces they see in the morning, so I always greet them with a smile and by telling them good morning. I take every chance to brighten their days, because you just don’t know what a child has been through when they board or get off your bus.”

The 55 buses that run in the morning and 60 buses that run in the afternoon travel a combined 2,722 miles a day as they carefully transport children from their bus stop to school and vice versa. During each of those miles, there is one main priority, according to Johnson City Transport Director Eldonna Janutolo.

“Safety is the primary thing that we do every day,” Janutolo said. “Everything that we do is geared toward safety.”

But she and her fleet of drivers are aware that they are dealing with children day in and day out.

“In a child’s educational experience, sometimes the first person they see in the morning from the educational system is the bus driver,” Janutolo said. “And sometimes the last person they see from the school at the end of the day is the bus driver, so our bus drivers are very important during a child’s educational experience, and we tell them that often.”

Brenda Burleson has been driving for the Johnson City Transit System for just over three decades. For her, it is much more than just transporting children to and from school. She said that a group of Mountain View drivers recently went out and purchased clothes for children from the school that needed them.

“I love my kids,” Burleson said through a smile. “It’s more than just picking them up, putting them on the bus and taking them home. We get attached to them and we feel for those who have a need.”

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