School Bus Safety Rodeo held in Montevallo

By SASHA JOHNS / Community Columnist

Had you driven down Shelby Street in Montevallo on April !0th, you would have seen an obstacle course that was a little unusual. That’s because the Shelby County school bus drivers were competing for cash and prizes at the School Bus Safety Rodeo.

Twenty-five bus drivers for five schools showed up to establish who was the best of the best in the hive of 307 county bus drivers. “The Bus Rodeo is a great event that emphasizes not only skill and safety, but also good fellowship and healthy competition among our local bus drivers,” said Kevin Snowden.

This event, sponsored by local businesses in the area, and judged by educators and partners that support our bus program, puts each competitor through a course of twelve challenges. Bus drivers vying for the prizes were of various skill and tenure in there experience. Some of the challenges they faced focused on safety while others focused on the skill and precision of handling the large vehicles. Finally, all the participants were treated to lunch and awards provided by the sponsors after the rodeo.

This year’s first place winner, Allison Whitfield, was able to represent our state last year at the national competition in Philadelphia. She’s been transporting Shelby County children to and from school for twenty five years. “I love to compete in the rodeo,” she says, “It makes me a better driver.”

The drivers at this event had much to say about the job they do. Bus driving veteran and trainer, Cecelia Woods shared how important positive bus drivers are to the kids they serve. “Your attitude determines their attitude all day long. Sometimes you are the first positive thing they experience all day, so your presence to those kids matters.” Ten year driver Billy Parker, who started driving after he retired, says, “You have to like kids and have a lot of patience, but getting your neck hugged everyday by your little friends is the best.”

Board of Education member Peg Hill shared with us that Shelby County is currently looking for new bus drivers to fill several positions. There are currently fourteen positions available. Interested parties can contact the bus shop in Columbiana at 205-682-7130 to get information about this summer’s training. If you are nervous about the idea of driving a big yellow school bus, Celia Woods offers a bit of encouragement. “If I can do it, you can do it. It’s like driving a car just bigger. It becomes natural to you eventually.”