Behind The Wheel

Behind The Wheel

Behind The Wheel

Rainier School District bus driver Kathy Murphy said she became a bus driver to giver back to others.

 Kathy Murphy, Rainier school bus driver

Posted: Thursday, September 15, 2016 9:00 am

Kathy Murphy of Rainier has been a bus driver for 22 years.

She is one of several drivers who you will see behind the wheel transporting students to and from school.

The Rainier School District has contracted with Mid-Columbia Bus Company since 2003 for its 18-route 22-driver student transportation system.

Mid-Columbia’s Regional Director of Operations Bob Osborn said all the drivers undergo extensive training before being assigned school bus routes.

“Drivers must be First Aid/CPR certified and be able to obtain a Class B CDL with school bus, passenger and air brakes endorsements, as well as a school bus license from the Oregon Department of Education,” he said. “Additionally, they receive training and annual refreshers on other related topics including things like bloodborne pathogens, student management and bullying prevention. New hires receive training and support in all aspects of the testing process.”

Murphy said one of the key challenges as a bus driver is managing her student passengers.

“Driving is easy,” she said. “But when you get several children behind you it can be challenging. It’s just one or two that you have to really work hard with.”

She credits the time she has spent with her own children in helping her deal with her young bus passengers.

“You have to have patience,” she said. “And not be quick to jump like a sergeant. Many times I use my mirror and the kids can see me. So it can be just a look and they know exactly what to do.”

Murphy also uses an in-bus speaker system to help keep order.

“This allows me to talk to them rather than shouting at them,” she said.

Inside each bus is posted a list of student rules that Murphy said are helpful to the younger children.

“We have basic rules that the kids learn when they come on board that teach them how to sit down and keep their hands to themselves when the bus is moving,” she said.

Osborn said additional on-board security also helps the drivers and the students.

“There are camera systems on all of our buses, for everyone’s protection,” he said. “The drivers do handle discipline on the bus, concerning most issues. When issues are of a more serious nature, they are turned over to school administrators.”

Osborn said student safety is the responsibility of everyone on the bus.

“Our school bus rules have been developed and implemented for the purpose of providing a safe environment for the students,” he said. “When the students follow these rules, the bus ride is a safer and more pleasant experience for everyone.”

Murphy said dealing with drivers is also a challenge.

“It is frustrating when drivers are not observing the student boarding bus lights,” she said. “I think they are very unclear about what to do.”

Murphy said when the bus ambler lights on top of the bus are activated, drivers need to be watching for the school bus to stop.

“When we open our doors, that activates our red lights and drivers need to stop at least 50 feet ahead of us and 50 feet behind us,” she said. “If we are fully off to the side of the road with just our turn signals on, it means they don’t need to stop. Drivers can pull past us cautiously.”

Murphy said the Rainer school buses do not make stops on Highway 30, but instead make off road stops picking and unloading the children on the door side of the bus.

“It’s all about the safety of the children and about the safety of drivers,” she said.

The fine for not stopping for a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing is $435.

Murphy said she became a bus driver to give back to others.

“I had a really good bus driver when I was a kid and she was kind of a mentor for me,” she said. “I thought I could be that same person for someone else. I had five children and so it was an easy fit with the kids in school.”

Murphy said her reward is hearing from her passengers.

“Some of them may have given me a lot of grief in their school days, but when they come back and tell me thank you for being their bus driver, that makes it all worth while,” she said.”

Murphy said being a bus driver can be a perfect fit for someone with children and who needs a part time job.

“You are the one who greets the kids first thing in the morning and the last one that sees them after school,” she said. “And sometimes that’s the last good morning or good evening they get.”

Mid-Columbia continues to seek school bus drivers.

“We are always in need of qualified, safety conscious adults who enjoy working with children of all ages,” Osborn said. “We are hiring, no experience necessary, pay for training and the job is perfect for stay at home moms/dads and those that are retired.

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