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Hortonville bus driver receives state award

King trains his peers, looks out for students

By Scott Bellile

Hortonville Area School District bus driver David King poses with his Excellence in Driving Award.
Photo courtesy of Hortonville Area School District

Hortonville Area School District bus driver David King was honored with the Wisconsin School Bus Association’s Excellence in Driving Award at the organization’s 71st annual convention on June 19 in La Crosse.

King, of Neenah, has driven bus for HASD since 2014. He takes students to and from Greenville Elementary School, Greenville Middle School and St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception School.

HASD Transportation Director Harry Steenbock stated in his nomination letter that King spends countless hours training new bus drivers and seasoned drivers alike, and he always handles issues quickly.

“As a worker, his No. 1 concern is always safety for the kids – having safe drivers,” Steenbock told the Press Star. “If he sees anything that he thinks is a little concerning, he will address it.”

King said when he left the paper industry a decade ago and applied for a bus-driving position with Lamers Bus Lines, the interviewer asked what a bus driver’s most important duty is.

While other drivers answered things like being on time, King said he correctly responded keeping the children safe.

King demonstrated that philosophy throughout his five years with Lamers, where he learned to train his fellow drivers on safety practices.

Since leaving that job for HASD, King continues to serve as a safety trainer – when he is not busy educating children on safe riding and bus etiquette.

“You’re not just a school bus driver, but you’re a teacher for the children as well,” King said.

When it comes to recognition for his work, “I’m one of those that prefer to fly under the radar,” King said.

King is a rookie compared to many of the bus drivers and mechanics who received WASB awards this year. Most have spent 30 to 50 years working for their employer.

“I felt a little uncomfortable having only driven 10 years (total) … so I thought ,’Why am I getting this award?’” King said.

When the WASB recognized King’s co-worker Betty Wihongi with the Excellence in Driving Award in 2017, he said they lightly teased that he would be up next.

Now that he actually received the award, King considers it an honor to have his boss, Steenbock, recognize the value of the work he brings to HASD.

One of King’s latest contributions is helping the district to test new tracking technology on its student riders.

This program, provided through a service called UniteGPS, utilizes a card that children scan on an electronic reader when they board and leave the bus.

The data collected from the card can be used to help parents and HASD staff determine which bus the child is on or last rode if they get lost.

When that happened before UniteGPS came along, every HASD bus driver would be told the name of a missing student over the radio, pull over the vehicle and ask if a child by that name is on the bus.

This strategy falters for the 4-year-old kindergarten students who do not know their last names or cannot speak clearly to the bus driver, King said.

With UniteGPS, these are not problems because every student carries an identification card.

“I’m a believer,” King said of UniteGPS’s tracking technology. “The system that we’re using has gone through quite a few changes since we started it, and I think there’s still more improvements coming with facial recognition. Everything has their pluses and minuses. The cards that we’re using seem to work.”

A dozen HASD buses are now part of the pilot program. A district-wide rollout is expected to take place once a policy is approved by the school board, Steenbock said.

HASD continues to seek new bus drivers amid a staffing shortage, and King said he would be happy to train new ones. For more information, contact Steenbock at 920-757-7045.

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