Superintendents to drive school buses

Superintendents to drive school buses
Hartford superintendent Andrew Cook behind the wheel of a school bus after obtaining his Commercial Driver's License.

It’s not every day that you see the superintendent of a school district operating a school bus.

And it’s certainly not often that you see two school superintendents looking to do what they can in a time of need by driving school buses.

Hartford superintendent Andrew Cook and Granville superintendent Tom McGurl are doing just that, with Cook obtaining his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) and McGurl having his permit and taking a road test on Jan. 11.

Cook said he has been used as an “occasional driver” for Hartford’s transportation department as the district continues to search for substitute drivers.

“First, I want to note that our transportation department does an excellent job,” Cook said. “The entire department is dedicated, professional, and strives to perform their responsibilities in the safest manner possible and I am proud to be able to lend my support and assistance.

“As an ‘occasional driver’ I was limited in how I could assist the transportation department and viewed this an opportunity to be of greater assistance,” Cook added. “As a district we have been continually searching for substitute drivers but have not been able to identify any candidates and we have just enough drivers to cover all our regular runs.

“One of the greatest variables for the district to maintain our in-person instructional model is related to transportation and our ability to safely transport our students to school. By obtaining my CDL with the school bus endorsement, I am now able to provide an additional level of assistance in this regard.”

McGurl said he plans on being a “break-glass-in-case-of-emergency” option for Granville.

Granville superintendent Tom McGurl

“When I first started teaching in Minerva, many years ago, it was suggested that I get a bus CDL to help out when needed. At times I drove kids to school, taught, drove them to practice, coached, and drove my team home. I really enjoyed it.

“Unfortunately, my CDL lapsed due to a lack of use, so now I have to start the process all over,” McGurl said. “In Granville, we have a great transportation department that goes above and beyond for kids. By having a CDL, I will be able to help out if we have an emergency. I do not anticipate a huge need for my assistance on a regular basis.”

Granville and Hartford were stressed during the fall this year regarding transportation, relying heavily on parents and guardians to drive students to school rather than transmitting the coronavirus on the school bus.

“Yes, Covid took a toll on our transportation department, which in turn, impacted our ability to transport kids to school. Hopefully, that is behind us,” McGurl said. “If it does come up again, we are trying to build additional capacity with substitute drivers to cover absences.

“As you know we are living in a very fluid situation!”

“Covid has certainly had an impact on our transportation; most notably with regards to the algorithm that the Department of Health utilizes for determining quarantines when there is a Covid exposure on the bus,” Cook said. “Due to the strict restrictions, the district has been encouraging our families to provide their own transportation to limit the number of students on the buses as a protective measure to ensure we can continue with daily in-person instruction.”

McGurl and Cook said they had to take multiple tests, courses for certifications and complete a background check with fingerprinting on their journey to obtaining the CDL.

“I am in the early stages of this process,” McGurl said. ‘The Department of Motor Vehicles has been VERY helpful in expediting the process as much as possible. They fully realize the driver crisis that schools are facing. The first time I did this years ago, it took about six months from start to finish.”

Cook said he is excited to assist when and where he can in the time of need.

“I am set and ready to provide any assistance necessary! Our head bus driver and I have had conversations on when I would be available and how this process would work,” Cook said. “Again though, I am just looking to help and provide any additional assistance necessary for our transportation department.”