Manassas Park Transportation News

2018/19 School Year –Issue #2 – October 2018

Photo of MPCS School Bus

From the Director

"It is hard to believe we are entering into the last quarter of our calendar year," said Patricia Hurley-Ritenour, Transportation Director. "The leaves are changing, temperatures are falling and with that comes extra dangers. Wet leaves can add to slippery road conditions and as our days get shorter, animals venture closer to the road and it becomes more and more difficult to see.

"Be sure to defrost your windows and mirrors before heading out. Be sure your fluids are full, and your wipers are working properly. Double check your bus during your daily pretrip inspections.

"This is a good time to remind the students of the importance of bus safety and their responsibilities: to stay in their seat, use inside voices and never, ever get up until the bus has come to a complete stop and the door is open. Remind them to stand on the sidewalk and not in the street until you have motioned that it is safe to board the bus. Check and re-check your mirrors before moving and count your students on and off during loading and unloading."

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Employee of the Month

Candance Mosley was selected as the Employee of the Month for October 2018.

“Candi is coming up on her two-year anniversary with MPCS and specifically as member of our team,” said Patty. “She works hard and when she needs help, she is not afraid to reach out to her coworkers for suggestions. She is well-liked by her students and respected by her peers. I am pleased to have Candi on my team.”

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And the Winner Is ….

There is no winner. Why? Because it was a training exercise! But if you are the competitive type, and you think you can drive that wide bus between the tennis balls in the diminishing clearance event or avoid the cones in offset alley, you might just be a winner in the real road-eo, planned for later this year.

But even if you don’t want to compete, if parallel parking scares you more than a trip to the dentist, we urge you to attend anyway and cheer the others on. Winners from this roadeo will earn a trophy and a chance to compete against other districts at the State Roadeo in June.

Okay, okay, so who scored the highest in the training exercise we participated in during inservice that was not a competition? In the driver’s category, Vikki Davis had the highest score, followed by Gus Blacutt and then Candi Mosley. For the attendants, newcomer Carlin Cano scored the highest, followed by a four-way tie between Julia Rubio, Michelle Jackson, Sandra Monroy and Jane Sanders.

Recruitment News

Our Fall recruitment efforts included advertising during Cougar and MPE Open House and sending notes home with the elementary students advertising a free informational session for those who might be interested in becoming a driver or attendant.

We had about a dozen folks respond to our invitation for more information and nine attend our first free, CDL Preparation Class. Out of this class, we hope to end up with at least two new drivers.

“We recruit year-round,” said Patty. “We advertise by word of mouth and we leave flyers at the Community Center, but by far the largest draw for new staff is through the flyers we send home with our elementary students before each workshop. Employing the parents and grandparents of our students just makes sense because for them, driving is more than just a job; it is personal. We have employees with children in our system or preschoolers who will eventually be in our system.

“Driving a school bus isn’t for everyone, but for those who feel called to the profession, it can be a very rewarding profession.”

New Member on the Team

Justin O’Malley, Bus 10, is a new driver. He began training in March of 2018 and signed a contract for the 2018-19 school year.

“I found out about the opportunity through Rachel Kirkland, Chair of the Manassas Park School Board,” he said. “Rachel’s husband used to run a comic shop in Arlington when I was in high school. I spent so much time in there he finally asked me if I would like a job. Over time, we became friends. Really, they are more like family now.”

Justin moved to Alabama for a while where he worked in marketing for a Honda dealership. When he moved back to the area, Rachel suggested driving a school bus. Justin said he had never thought about driving but was willing to give it a try.

“I have done a ton of different, random jobs,” he said. “Construction, restaurant work, sales – you name it. My work experiences range from suit-and-tie offices to construction sites.”

So how does he like driving a bus?

“It’s really fun,” he said. “I really love the kids. The bus itself takes some getting used to, but after a while it is like a car that turns really, really wide. I am immature by nature, so I get along well with the kids,” he adds with a laugh.

“Student management can be a challenge, but children are the way they are and sometimes they like to challenge you. They like to try to push your boundaries. I tell kids what I believe which is, if you are going to ask them to do something, you should have a good reason for it. And our reasons have to do with safety. I tell them, as long as you are doing the things that keep you safe, then we are okay.”

Justin has attended Old Dominion University “off and on for years” where he studied philosophy and marketing, but he has yet to graduate. He said it would be nice to finish one day, “once those big bus driver bucks start rolling in” and he can afford it again. (Don’t tell him, you guys! We need him to keep driving!)

Slovenian Slavoj Žižek (pronounced SLAH-voy ZHEE-zhek) is his favorite philosopher. Born in 1949, Slavoj is still very much alive and according to Wikipedia, very smart.

“He has interesting takes on a lot of modern day issues,” said Justin. “He draws a lot of parallels from popular culture.” (We wonder what his philosophy is on transit versus conventional school buses, or the whole seat belt issue?)

“Philosophy in general falls somewhere in between religion and science,” said Justin. “It kind of asks the questions that religion asks, but tries to apply rigorous scientific methods to answering those questions.”

Justin also works part-time as a childcare provider for a special needs teenager.

“They call me a bro pair instead of an au pair,” he said. “It can be challenging, but also very interesting. Working with someone who has that level of disability makes you think about how a lot of things that we might normally do are actually social constructs, and may not be all that necessary.”

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A Fond Farewell

While we celebrate our new drivers and attendants, we bid a fond farewell to Ronda Ferguson-Marble, a bus driver and a trainer. Ronda’s last day with us will be Friday, October 19.

“Ronda has been a big part of our training team over the past five years,” said Patty. “In that time, she has successfully trained many of our new drivers. Ronda strives to educate drivers of the importance of following the laws and guidelines and to put safety first at all times. She is a professional both in and out of the classroom. We will miss Ronda both as a trainer but more important as a teammate. I wish Ronda all the best on her new adventure and I have no doubt that she will be great. We all wish you the very best of luck you will be missed.”

Ronda started with us in February 2011. She came to us from Prince William County with her CDL and endorsements.

“I wanted to work with a smaller district,” she said. “The county was so big. I am really going to miss the family-like atmosphere at Manassas Park. The day I submitted my two weeks, as I was pulling out of the loop in the afternoon, Dr. McDade wiped his eyes with his tie and gave me a sad face. So many districts would not even notice my leaving, but here the superintendent knows everyone. This department has been good to me too. I am so thankful that I got to advance into a Training Instructor position. That helped me to advance to the next chapter in my life.”

Ronda is leaving us to go to work for Lane, a construction firm that does work with VDOT on the HOV lanes and at the Pentagon. It is a large company with many projects in the works.

“I am going to start out as a regular driver and then move into a Safety Trainer position,” she said. “Safety training is my passion. I love that. I will be driving a Dump Truck and a Slurry Truck (a Water Truck). These require a tank endorsement, which I got about a month ago. I studied for it while I was sitting at DMV, took the test and missed 2 out of 20. But I have to do the HAZMAT also so I can fuel the trucks and other equipment.”

Ronda worked for Lane over the summer and has worked for them part-time since then. “They love my work ethic and see potential in me, especially as a safety trainer so I am looking forward to advancing in the company and in my own career. I am also looking forward to the opportunity to move around and see different places, and Lane is all over the country, so I might have that opportunity.”

But, she said, she will “greatly miss” her kids, her coworkers and the small community of Manassas Park.

“Working here has been so fulfilling,” she said. “I’ve made good friends and I love my kids. The children are beautiful. And I am the safety girl. I love safety.

“I am going to keep in touch. I have made lifelong friendships here and they won’t end just because I have a new job or a new chapter in my life.”