I recently had the privilege of interviewing Jesse Hill, the special needs driver supervisor for Academy School District 20 in Colorado Springs, for the CPI podcast series Unrestrained
When I asked him what most inspired him or satisfied him about his job, his response underscored his—and the district’s—commitment to safety on their school buses.
“You know, just knowing that we're transporting these kids back and forth, from home to school, school to home, that we're transporting them successfully, and that we're taking care of the kids. Because that is our first priority. We have a saying here in District 20, in transportation our motto is ‘Every student, every day.’ That it's about every student every day,” answered Jesse.
He went on to say that whether the students on the bus are general or special ed, they are all viewed equally, and that safety is the paramount concern for every student.
ASD 20 at a glance
A commitment to safety is surely essential in ASD 20, a thriving educational community that includes 21 elementary schools, 8 middle schools, and 7 high schools; daily ridership is over 10,000 students.
Included in the district are 76 general education routes and 47 special needs routes. 386 special needs students are transported daily; 44 paraprofessionals ride along on the special needs routes to help keep the ride safe and orderly.
Photo: graphic-bee / iStock
How a large district helps to ensure safety
Within so large a district, the opportunity for challenging behavior is potentially high. To help ensure that all staff can effectively manage such behavior, ASD’s director of transportation, Ms. Cindy Hardin, made training in CPI’s Nonviolent Crisis Intervention®
program mandatory for all staff in 2012.
But it wasn’t always that way. Jesse explains, “Well, we've had CPI here in District 20 for a number of years. Unfortunately, the first 10 years that I worked here, I was never trained in CPI. And they kind of, I guess if you will, picked and chose the individuals that they wanted to go through. We got a new director, Ms. Cindy Hardin, and she felt that it was so important to have that CPI, that understanding, to help people to identify the anxiety level of students. Not only students, but of course parents and peers, to understand what that anxiety level is and how to stop it before it goes into a physical intervention.”
Asked about why she expanded the training to include all staff, Ms. Hardin, a Certified Instructor since 1997, explained, “I believe that to understand and recognize the levels of escalation is a critical element of training for my drivers, dispatchers, routers, mechanics, and supervisors. Understanding how to practice de-escalation techniques is important to them all.”
A comprehensive commitment to training
Jesse started with the district in 2002 as a driver and became the special needs driver supervisor for ASD 20 in 2012. He also received his first Nonviolent Crisis Intervention®
training that year. Since then, Jesse has gone on to become a Certified Instructor, who in turn certifies other Instructors.
He is a strong believer in the power of training to alleviate anxiety in challenging situations.
“We have four trainers here right now and every person that comes in through our door as an employee will be trained, normally within the first six months of their employment,” explains Jesse. “If we can get them trained quickly, it helps alleviate some of that anxiety level that they
might have when they get onto a bus and a student is starting to act out and they just don't know what to do. It kind of gives them that. So we do train, just on a constant rotation right now. We have about 230 employees in the transportation department itself.”
Tune in to the podcast to learn more
Jesse’s interview includes powerful examples of his own experiences de-escalating challenging behavior on the bus as well as how he counsels other drivers who come to him looking for advice managing their young riders. How did he trouble-shoot and ultimately solve the problem of one boy who consistently refused to be seated on the bus? Enjoy the podcast to hear the story.
- If you haven't yet, head on over to 31 for 31 to check out our School Bullying Prevention Difference Makers.
- Watch what this school bus driver did when a stranger boarded the bus.
Photo: Susan Chiang / iStock