Manassas Park Transportation News

2018/19 School Year –Issue #5 – January 2019

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From the Director

“As we close the calendar on January, we are all anxiously awaiting Spring, when we can wash our buses, clean our windows and enjoy the warm sunshine on our skin,” said Patty. “I am ready and waiting for the spring flowers to push through the frozen ground.”

Fortunately, on February 2, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, predicting an early spring.

“I can’t believe the school year is already more than halfway over,” she said, “but as usual, despite the challenges of traffic, weather and distracted drivers, as a team, you are doing a great job getting our students to and from school each day, in a safe and timely manner.

“Thank you for all you do!”

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School Resource Appreciation

When MPCS School Resource Officer Vince Brann was out on medical leave, we noticed – everyone noticed.

“It makes our job so much easier when Officer Brann is there,” said Connie. “He is always looking out for us and the safety of the students. He makes doing what we do each day easier and the whole process much smoother.”

Officer Brann has been a School Resource Officer for Manassas Park for over five years. He said the hardest part of his job is traffic control.

"I do my best to get all the vehicles through the intersection and to the school on time, but it would be great if more students would ride the bus. The buses are usually all in by 7 a.m.”

Officer Brann said most of the drivers listen to him and obey his signals. Sometimes he gets cars that sit after traffic has moved and he knows they are on their phones.

If he could give new student drivers one piece of advice, he would tell them to “pay attention to your speed and what is ahead of you. And no texting. Whatever it is, it can wait.”

Officer Brann said the most gratifying part of his job is seeing the kids learn and graduate, “being proud of their accomplishments.”

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Employee of the Month

Congratulations to newcomer Justin O’Malley, Bus 10, for being Employee of the Month for November 2018.

“Justin steps up where he is needed,” said Patty. “He often has to jump from bus to bus, but he does so with confidence and a good attitude. He has also come a long way with student management.”

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Employee of the Month - December

And congratulations to Betty Barrett, Employee of the Month for December 2018.

“Betty has been an employee for MPCS since September 7, 1996,” said Patty. “Twenty-three years. And I have had the pleasure to work with her for the past 12 plus of those years. In that time, I have seen her change and grow in many ways. She steps up and offers help to her co-workers when help is needed. She is a shoulder to lean on when you need one and an advocate for those who struggle to help themselves. Betty has stepped out of her comfort zone to become a certified CPR/First Aid instructor. She has taken on new assignments and understands the big picture. Betty is a model for safe driving and I am proud to reward her Employee of the Month.”

A Poem for Betty

Every month someone is picked

Who well deserves our praise,

It comes with recognition, but

Never with a raise.

It means that they have been the

Best that they could be,

That is why we call them the

Monthly employee.

It means that they step up, and

Do what they should do,

She’s always there to help someone and it doesn’t matter who.

This month the lucky lady who was

Chosen from the group,

Is someone that we all know,

Her name is Betty Boop!

Lynda Jackson, Bus 5

Recruitment Update

Having a shortage of drivers is nothing new to Manassas Park City Schools – or any other school district for that matter. Whether you live in the city or the country or in between, if you have a CDL with a School Bus endorsement, chances are, you will be able to find a job. Here are some recent national headlines about the shortage:

FL – Polk County Public Schools plans to boost starting pay and drop its requirement for a high school or GED diploma as it struggles with a significant driver shortage.

NC – The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction study finds that some school systems offer drivers work in other departments to get them full-time hours and pay.

KS – Baldwin City School District discontinues transportation for students who live less than 2.5 miles from their school.

NE – The shortage has become so severe that some districts are offering sign-up bonuses for new drivers, while others rely on mechanics, custodians and other school employees to fill the gap.

One of our recruitment tools is to send home flyers to parents of school-age children inviting them to attend an informational session on what is involved in learning to drive a bus. We use that meeting to tell them more about the opportunity, including the pros and cons of driving, and to answer any questions they might have. We also run their licenses and conduct short interviews.

For those applicants who have a good driving record, pass the initial interview and still have an interest in driving, we extend an offer to participate in a unique workshop. This workshop is free and designed to help applicants prepare for DMV’s four tests, all of which they must pass to obtain their CDL Instruction Permit. A CDL Instruction permit is necessary before MPCS – or anyone else – will train a new driver.

In the past, over the course of the workshop, we have taken trainees through the CDL Instruction Manual chapter by chapter, emphasizing certain parts and encouraging them to study. This year, we have purchased an additional training video series which we hope will expedite preparing applicants for the computer tests at DMV.

For our January outreach, about a dozen people responded to the invitations we sent home in the backpacks of school-age children to attend the Informational meeting. From that pool, we ended up with five serious applicants in our workshop. Paid training begins in February, and Patty is hoping to have at least four drivers in the next class along with a few attendants.

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Snapchat and Instagram are still the most popular social networks among American teens, according to recent research, but there is something new on the technological horizon: Air Drop.

“I saw kids doing it on my bus,” said Sarah Taylor, Bus 15. “They were laughing and carrying on. At first, I did not know what they were doing, but then I figured out it was AirDrop.”

AirDrop is one of the newest applications out there, and is an ad-hoc service of Apple. Imagine dropping a manila file folder into a box on your desk. AirDrop allows users to share files – documents, pictures, videos – between devices without having to bother with email. You don’t even have to know the other person’s phone number. It is a door to your device that allows other users to enter data, with or without your consent if you have not adjusted your settings.

For the feature to work, the phones must be physically close together – in the same room or a room close by. The problem is, if you have your phone set to accept files from anyone, you may end up with viruses or other files from people you don’t know.

Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization focused on educating educators, parents and families, writes that “from cyberbullying to FOMO to cruel comments, social media can be a land mine for kids. Issues we parents never had to worry about, such as an intimate photo texted to the entire school or Instagram videos of a birthday party we weren't invited to, are now a risk for many tweens and teens.”

As school bus drivers and attendants, we are accustomed to listening between the lines, the noise of the bus and the sound of the engine, for any signs of trouble.

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Junior Officer Valletti

Okay, so he’s not really an officer, but he is doing a great job at his post, directing buses in and out of the Cougar loop, helping children cross the street safely and assisting parents around and out of the parking lot.

Coincidentally, Mr. Valletti was named this year’s MPCS Teacher of the Year. The press release states that he is a 12-year veteran of MPCS, a STEM teacher and the Administrative Coordinator for several programs. He directs the National Inventor's Hall of Fame and U.S. Patent Department's Camp Invention at MPCS.

"George does amazing things, and his passion is contagious," said Superintendent C. Bruce McDade. "He is able to share information in imaginative ways, and he instills in his students a true desire to learn."

What grade do you teach?

I am a STEM Learning Lab Teacher and work with grades 3 – 5.

What do you like most about teaching?

Teaching is a highly rewarding career field. When you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. I love the opportunities and adventures teaching brings on a daily basis. Being the facilitator of exploration, creativity, and curiosity is highly rewarding as student ideas flourish and their abilities to solve problems increase.

Do you like buses?

I think the invention of the bus was one of the modern advancements of transportation. I thank you all each and every day for all that you do to transport our students and keep them safe.

Would you like to learn to drive a bus one day?

I would love too! Just not with students. I think just learning how to drive them would be a challenge in itself.

Did you ride a school bus to school when you were growing up?

Unfortunately, no. Growing up I walked to school every day. As my grandfather would say, “he would walk 2 miles each way and uphill each day to get to and from school.” I followed in his footsteps. I walked to school, until I was old enough to drive on my own.

Did you like your bus driver?

I love all bus drivers! They are amazing people.

Did you volunteer to direct traffic or were you assigned?

It was a voluntold position. We realized the need was there and it made sense being that I was already there for the flag crew each day. It brought consistency to the driver routine for drop off and pick up. The only problem arises when I am absent.

Are you afraid that you will get hit standing in the intersection?

Well, to be honest, it is what it is. I do my very best to be observant as to what is going on around me.

Have you ever had a close call?

Yes, several times as people sometimes are not paying attention, or choose not to follow the directions provided. However, very rarely do I back down especially for the safety of our students. I will be honest, the 1st month of school is usually the roughest, after that we run pretty smoothly.

Does your head get cold?

Often, being bald has its advantages though. Usually, the sun provides a nice reflection, so people will see me. As I say, it is a great solar panel! Having a hat is essential on cold days.

What do you like about Manassas Park?

I love the small town feeling of family and connections Manassas Park offers. MPCS is an awesome place to work! We have a truly dedicated and amazing staff that provides the best learning atmosphere possible for our students. I am really blessed to be considered an employee of MPCS.