Putting Students First: APS Bus Operator Charles Brown Retires After 32 Years of Service

When Charles Brown first decided to apply for a position as a bus operator at Atlanta Public Schools, he vividly recalled the experience his parents had working as administrators at APS prior to retiring after 30 years of service.

“I remember how my parents never complained about their jobs at APS,” said Brown, whose mother and father worked as an elementary school principal and physical education teacher and high school track coach, respectively. “They were happy. They played bridge and socialized with their co-workers after hours, attended cook-outs, and visited each others’ houses. My parents loved their jobs, and they really enjoyed spending time with their colleagues.”

Thirty-two years later, Brown is now reminiscing about his own experiences as an APS employee. On Dec. 31, Brown will officially retire as an APS bus operator, a job he’s held – and loved – since September 1988. His entire career at APS has been devoted to serving and safely transporting students to and from the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf.

For Brown, working at APS has been one of the most rewarding and joyful experiences of his life.

“It’s been a real moment in my life,” said Brown, 68, an Atlanta native, proud product of Atlanta Public Schools, and graduate of Frederick Douglass High School, who is well known for his kind, warm and friendly demeanor. “APS has been like a family to me. This has been a close-knit experience. My co-workers and I have shared the highs and lows in life. We’ve shared joys, trials and tribulations. That’s why I’ve considered this as more than a job. It’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve been doing everything my parents were doing when they were at APS. When you have an experience like this, you keep going.”

With students attending school virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brown’s job looks a lot different than it did when he first started working at APS. Since March, Brown now serves students and their families by distributing weekly meals throughout the community and any other duties he’s assigned.

“Being in the community has really made a difference,” he said. “It’s become like a family. You get to know everyone in the neighborhood. It means a lot to me. I’m really going to miss them.”

“I’ve made a point to get to know my parents and have always encouraged them to get in contact with me if they have concerns,” said Brown, an adoptive father of 10 children and grandfather of 15, who plans to devote more time to family, his burgeoning photography business, and caring for his 100-year-old mother-in-law. “If I have any issues, I talk to my parents, and they handle it.”

With his impending retirement now on the horizon, Brown will also miss spending time with his transportation colleagues, as well as seeing and serving the students and families on his daily bus route. Over the years, Brown has built a close rapport and bond with families, a demonstration of his love, care and concern for students’ safety and well-being.

Brown’s commitment to students earned him the 2017-2018 LEADS APyeS! Putting Students First Award. Praised for his unyielding dedication, passion and professionalism, Brown’s love for children extends above and beyond his role as a bus operator.

Executive Director of Transportation John Franklin described Brown as a true champion for APS.

“He is an inspiration because he is very dedicated to his students, and this is reflected to his attendance at work, punctuality and safe driving record,” Franklin wrote in Brown’s APyeS! Awards nomination letter. “Mr. Brown’s deep roots in APS have taught him the expectation of putting students first. Mr. Brown casts an image of a humble, kind and understanding employee who inspires confidence from his parents and trust from his students. He is the type of driver that any parent would instantly feel comfortable and confident in placing their child on the bus with him.”

As he embarks on a new journey, Brown looks forward to spending more quality time with his wife of 33 years, Suzette.

“We’ve been joking about it for years,” Suzette Brown said of her husband’s retirement. “He deserves it, and this is the right time for him to retire. I’m really happy for him.”

For now, Brown said he will always cherish the special memories he’s made over the past three decades.

“I will really miss transportation and all the relationships I’ve had over the years,” Brown said. “I’ll also miss the administration. Transportation has some of the best supervisors in the metro Atlanta area.”

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