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Coulee Medical Center ER and Walk-In Care

By Jesse Utz 

The wheels on the bus go round and round

Jess Shut Up


Remember that old song from our younger days, which we would just keep singing and singing as we rode the bus to school or on a field trip? I was reminded of that song at a Public School Employees (PSE) Conference over the weekend.

I sat at a table with a few drivers from the Wenatchee area who knew my Aunt Mickey, a now-retired bus driver, as we listened to how the whole state has a driver shortage. That got me thinking a little bit about the importance and the impact of the driver of the yellow bus that took us to and from school.

First off, my first bus driver was Jean Thorne. I loved her. My first day of school as a kindergartener she left a great impact on me, and as the years went by she continued to drive the Electric City route and put up with us unruly youngsters.

Also, I thought of my Grandpa Nessly, who drove school bus in Deer Park; my Aunt Mickey, who drove in Wenatchee; and my stepfather, who drove the Nespelem route here. All drivers of a day gone by and drove during a much different time period. Today’s drivers are underpaid and subjected to a barrage of insults, negativity and strict regulations. Districts all across the state are having a harder and harder time finding long-term drivers, and ours is no different.

The first person a child sees each school day is the bus driver, and the last going home. This role is one of the most important in the district, in my opinion. They see where the child lives and who their friends are. They watch from their seated position, glancing through the big mirror, and see the picked on, the teased, the happy and the bullies. They do something about it when they can, but there is only so much they can do. They break up fights, assign seats and find lost homework. They counsel, taxi and discipline, all in a day’s work. They put up with the meanest, loudest and rudest, and continue to deliver kids home safely. A super hero, really.

Today’s bus driver is someone we as a district and community should really honor. People like Barb Mooney, Keith Powell and David Gates, who get up early to meet our kids with a smile and drop them off later with the same demeanor. There are many others too, here at Grand Coulee Dam, who drive the big and small Twinkie-colored mobile unit and haul precious cargo while undergoing direct stress from some of those passengers. We need to encourage them and support them as much as we can. Their safety record is untouchable by most standards, and that affects us all.

We need to stand up for them. They are challenged with low wages, shrinking hours and un-appreciating riders, and yet they still show up to work.

So thank you, drivers. If you see a bus driver who currently drives or did in the past, thank her or him. We are where we are today because they took us where we needed to go.

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