By: Alicia Sands Lurry
Charles Brown looks forward to coming to work today just as much as he did nearly 30 years ago. An Atlanta Public Schools bus driver since 1988, Brown attributes his longevity to passion, dedication, and a keen ability to relate to students and their families.
“I’ve never had a problem with my kids on the bus,” said Brown, an Atlanta native and recipient of the 2017-2018 Putting Students First Award. “I give parents my cell phone number, and I build a rapport with students and their families. I enjoy being around kids, I enjoy my job, and I’m proud to come to work every day.”
Oct. 16-20 is National School Bus Safety Week, and Brown is among the hundreds of familiar and committed individuals in the Atlanta Public Schools Transportation Department who keep our students safe every day. As a public education program, National Bus Safety Week is an opportunity for parents, students, teachers, motorists, school bus operators, school administrators, and others to join forces and address the importance of school bus safety. This year’s theme is “Stop on Red!”
According to John Franklin, APS director of transportation, National School Bus Safety Week is a perfect opportunity to recognize the importance of bus safety and to show appreciation for transportation personnel.
“National School Bus Safety is a time to pause and reflect, and is an opportunity for schools, parents, and families to recognize the importance of riding, exiting, and going to the bus stop safely,” Franklin said. “Our technicians, drivers, bus monitors, payroll clerks, and leadership team are dedicated and work tirelessly to keep our students safe. It is important to realize that school buses are the safest method to transport students to and from school.”
According to the National Association for Pupil Transportation, more than 25 million children ride the yellow bus every school day. As a district, Atlanta Public Schools transports 26,000 students daily. The transportation department, in turn, is home to 460 employees, which includes 360 bus drivers and 70 bus monitors.
In recognition of National School Bus Safety Week and Bus Driver Appreciation Day on Oct. 16, we will feature other outstanding transportation pros in four feature articles.
Today, meet two more APS bus operators who ensure our children arrive to school and home safely each day.
Brenda McQueen and Linda Starr
Twin sisters Brenda McQueen and Linda Starr have more in common than just being siblings. In addition to being best friends, the two have also been APS bus drivers for more than 20 years, and their love for children make their work a joy each day.
“We’re more than just bus drivers, we’re like they’re other mothers,” said McQueen, who has been with the district for 23 years. “We’re parents, chaperones, friends, and their motivation. We care.”
They also take safety seriously. The most important lessons they share are for students to stop, look and listen at all times. They also stress the importance of students knowing how and when to cross the street.
“I tell my students to look at me before crossing, let me know before picking something up, and to always look, count and watch before crossing the street,” McQueen said. “Rules are in place for a reason.”
Her sister agreed.
“We tell them to stop, look and listen,” said Starr, who recently celebrated 20 years with APS. “I don’t pull off until I know everyone is safe. This shows the public that we are responsible for these kids and that we’re doing our part.”