(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY STEVE PAGE)
By Steve Page
For those who believe the school day starts for the students at the first bell, Todd Sconce begs to differ.
Sconce is Transportation Director for the Metropolitan School District of Decatur Township.
“School starts when they’re stepping onto the bus and ends when they step off the bus,” he noted Wednesday.
That was the day to make note of that, as it was the township’s Bus Driver Appreciation Day.
“Every school has something for the drivers,” said Superintendent Dr. Matthew Prusiecki. “The transportation department gives them donuts and coffee.
“We have a good core team. We have a great group of bus drivers who are Decatur Proud. As superintendent, I’m proud.
“Transportation has been very sound since our re-district. We haven’t had to re-route anything. They send a note to me when they’re finished. We’re done by 5. Yesterday, we were done by 4:35.”
Of Wednesday’s event, Prusiecki said, “Todd Sconce, the Transportation Director, put it all together for every driver. Every school has treats.”
Sconce, who works with Director of Operations Ken Folks, enjoys his drivers.
“We have a great group of bus drivers,” he said. “Our office staff is outstanding.
“I am fortunate. We have Lisa Everman, my assistant, and Brandy Wilson, our router. They both have CDL’s, so they can drive if they need to. They really are two main cogs who make this place grow. We have a new dispatcher, Gabe Morrison. He’s a wizard at reorganizing our schedule – to make everything right. Beverly Presnell is our secretary. She can also drive for us.”
That is a group that is busy every day.
Nearly 7,000 students populate nine different schools in the district. To get there and back, they ride in 78 buses.
It’s all part of Sconce’s outlook.
From the beginning
“I started here in 1997 as a U.S. History teacher and I coached football and wrestling,” Sconce recalled. “I enjoyed that. But I wanted a bigger impact. So I got out of coaching and into administration.
“This is a bigger challenge with 100 employees and 78 buses,” he said, watching buses on large video screens in his office. “We also maintain our police vehicles and food services.”
All with the drivers and students in mind.
“We provide them with gear and food for the appreciation we show,” he said of the drivers. “We bought winter coats and sweatshirts. We get donuts from Jack’s Donuts in Camby. We’re just trying to make something positive every day.
That’s the school plan.
“E plus R Equals O,” said Prusiecki. “That means Every Response Equals Outcome.”
Sconce concurred, saying, “Things that happen to us are opportunities. Your reaction helps the outcome.”
The reactions should be good.
“It’s a work in progress,” Sconce continued. “We have a growth mindset. We have unbelievable help from the administration, led by Dr. Prusiecki. They give us what we need.
“We’re getting a GPS system software. We’re going to be the most efficient with the new program.”
Sconce has been working at this for some time.
“When I first started, (superintendent) Jim Kaiser was at Monrovia. He said, ‘When you go somewhere new, make a logo change. You’ve got to have a goal to know where you’re going.’
“So we have the MSD Decatur Elite Fleet.”
The logo, with a hawk symbol and the words “MSD Decatur Elite Fleet” has surfaced everywhere, from shirts, to coats to winter caps.
“I implemented systems and reworked the handbook,” Sconce said. “The technology needed adjusting. We did that.
“We have a Bus Driver of the Month and a Monitor of the Month. Herff Jones is getting us a ring for Bus Driver of the Year.”
Herff Jones manufactures and sells educational recognition and achievement products and motivational materials.
Sconce said the goal is to make everything as smooth as possible – for drivers and students alike.
“Our mechanics do an incredible job,’ he said. “We have 100 percent of the buses cleared for the road. That’s a credit to the mechanics. We just purchased a bus-wash machine. We just got it Friday. You just walk it alongside the bus as it washes. This will help now.
“A lot of our drivers live in the community. Where you may have a teacher for a year, you may have the same bus driver for 12 years.”