Courtesy photo
School board members, Kathy Castagnola and Sheri Samson joined Ann Kee and Transportation Director, Will Gemelke in thanking the bus drivers.

With some of the highest levels of responsibility being placed upon these Mineral County School District employees, Transportation Director Will Gemelke and Hawthorne Elementary School Secretary Ann Kee, made a special effort of thanking the bus drivers that keep our student cargo picked up and dropped off safely throughout the school year.

A special homemade appreciation luncheon was provided by Kee, as she brought these employees together for a moment of smiles and handshakes. Hawthorne students had made each of them a giant thank-you card with signatures, drawings and notes written throughout the foldout of wishes.

Burt Johnson, just completed his fourth year with Mineral County transportation, originally coming in via Churchill County. Bringing over 37 years of experience, he stated, “I bleed black and gold now”. When asked about driving a bus versus driving a large truck, Johnson quickly explained that the cargo varied tremendously. “It is entirely different inside a bus rather than the controlled cab of a truck – you have to remain alert to all things, at all times, with your eyes and ears constantly open.”

Lavina Smith and her husband, Smitty Smith, were on hand to explain their part-time driving commitment within the Mineral County School District, stating, “I get called in, sometimes at the last minute to fill in as needed,” she explained, “and I have been with Mineral County school routes for years – even after I left driving awhile.”

Kay Stidham spoke of teaching students the proper conduct of riding a bus. “It is offered as a privilege, so they need to treat our buses with respect and still make it an enjoyable, safe experience.”

Her husband, Ed Stidham, the previous transportation director of the department, remains a part-time driver for various Mineral County sports teams. He and full-time Schurz bus driver, Fred Williams, were not available for the afternoon luncheon, as director Gemelke explained the coordination of scheduling his bus drivers together in one place was nearly impossible. “We are just too spread out to meet up together at the same time.”

John Gavin, High School Counselor and experienced bus driver for events and sport trips, shared that his bus driving began in 1996 as a wrestling coach. “I found out that if I wanted my team to arrive to a wrestling meet, I needed to find a way to get them there – so I got my proper licensing to drive a bus and I made it happen.”

Amid the food and discussions, the busing staff expressed the desire of seeing covered bus stops throughout the county, adding safely designated highway stops and some simple accommodations within the transportation office.

Since many of the bus drivers live too far away to travel home for a few hours of down time, in-between driving their routes, they are left with down time sitting within the local office. A simple request of supplying the office with cable TV access and possible Wi-Fi would create a more comfortable and productive environment while a bus driver awaits their driving time or if a need arises to postpone a drive during extreme weather conditions.

With a need to expand hiring qualified bus drivers within the Mineral County School District’s Transportation Department, openings are available within the school district. Anyone interested in finding out more about this area of employment may contact the Human Resource Director, Hope Blinco, at the Mineral County School District office, located at 757 A St., in Hawthorne. Information may also be obtained by calling (775) 945-2403.