This meeting had the feel of a family reunion.
The annual transportation in-service event held on Aug. 7 at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds drew transportation employees from across the Cherry Creek School District, professionals who gathered for professional development and training exercises.
But the meeting was about more than by-the-book training drills on state regulations and safety procedures – it was also an opportunity to catch up with old friends and welcome new members of the community. Drivers, assistants and other transportation staff from across the district chatted over lunch and discussed the prospects of a new school year.
"It's good to see everyone again," said Wanda van Zonneveld, a CCSD bus driver from the East terminal who serves routes at Pine Ridge Elementary and Fox Ridge Middle School. "I like the people I meet in this job."
The in-service was also a chance for Van Zonneveld and her colleagues to hear personally from the district's new Director of Transportation Brad Carriveau, who comes to Cherry Creek Schools from a rural district in Wisconsin. In between addressing the hundreds of employees gathered inside of the Fairground's meeting halls and serving them a lunch of grilled brats and hot dogs, Carriveau was on hand to personally meet and chat with the crew who help a district of more than 54,000 operate smoothly on a daily basis.
"It's been great to learn the personalities of the drivers. I want to show my appreciation to them for being the 'unsung heroes' of Cherry Creek Schools," Carriveau said. "The people here have been very welcoming and energetic … They're dedicated and I can see that they're ready to do their best and make a positive impact."
The meeting was a chance to recognize those efforts, as the group celebrated employees of the year from district transportation officials. What's more, it was an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of drivers like van Zonneveld, who won a first-place prize at the Adams County Invitational Road-eo driving contest held earlier in the year; she also went on to compete in the national competition held in Indianapolis earlier in the summer.
"It makes me want to train harder for next year," said van Zonneveld, who's earned top rankings in past Road-eo contests.
Such celebration was a valuable acknowledgement for some of the district's hardest working employees, even as Colorado and the rest of the nation face a shortage of bus drivers. In fact, the Cherry Creek School District is accepting applications for drivers and other transportation employees at www.cherrycreekschools.org. Applications can be found under the "Human Resources – Job Postings – Classified – Transportation" tabs.
Carriveau was quick to point to the benefits of a career in transportation, a list of perks that includes medical insurance, flexible spending accounts, paid holidays, life insurance and a starting wage of $17 per hour.
"We want to draw more people in to apply to become involved in a great career," he said. "For those in school training to be teachers, this is a great way to start working with kids before you graduate. It's one of the best career moves you can make."