A trio of Lake Pend Oreille School District’s Transportation Department crew recently received statewide honors.
When the Idaho Association for Pupil Transportation voted this summer on nominees for Best of Idaho 2017 regarding school bus transportation, three LPOSD employees were selected in three different categories: Don Hicks, Driver Trainer of the Year; Diane Syth, Special Needs Driver of the Year, and Shellbie Montgomery, Special Needs Aide of the Year.
• Shellbie Montgomery, 2017 Special Needs Aide of the Year
Montgomery has been employed as a special needs aide with the district since November 2013 and serves as an attendant on several special needs bus routes daily. That gives her the chance to work with multiple drivers and special needs students within the district.
“She has developed a special and personal relationship with each student as she sits with her assigned students listening, sharing and interacting along the route,” district officials wrote in a nomination letter.
District officials applauded Montgomery’s student management strategy, which helps students enjoy the ride or gives them their space to be independent on the bus, while still keeping safe watch over the students. “Many of the students are non-verbal so she pays special attention to body language. In an effort to make the bus ride a positive experience for the students, Shellbie will play fun games and sing songs with the students,” officials wrote.
Montgomery, who has developed a special and personal relationship with each student, keeps a close eye on body language since many of the students in her care are non-verbal.
“In an effort to make the bus ride a positive experience for the students, Shellbie will play fun games and sing songs with the students,” the nomination letter reads.
In addition to her duties as a special needs aide, Montgomery also attends North Idaho College in pursuit of her associate’s degree in physical therapy. She also has actively sought training for professional development that includes CPR/first aid, non-violent crisis intervention certification, and wheelchair restraint experience. Shellbie is also a certified nurse assistant, making her a great asset to have on any school bus in the fleet, officials noted.
Montgomery is very active in the community and volunteers her time with the local 4-H club to help develop Sandpoint youth. She has received numerous leadership awards and her 4-H group is always considered a top performer and well organized.
• Don Hicks, 2017 School Bus Driver Trainer of the Year
A school bus driver with the district for the past nine years, Don Hicks has served as a driver trainer for the past six years. Hicks has driven commercial vehicles since 1980 with zero accidents or citations. As a driver trainer, he has performed over 100-plus hours of behind-the-wheel and classroom training during this school year. In addition, Hicks efficiently schedules and facilitates emergency evacuation drills for 35 routes twice per year.
In a nomination letter, LPOSD officials noted that Hicks is highly respected as a driver, dispatcher and trainer by his supervisors and peers.
“At the Lake Pend Oreille School District, Don Hicks fills three important roles as a driver trainer, flex driver and morning dispatcher,” the nomination letter reads. “Don is the first employee at work every day and assists in filling routes requiring substitute drivers. Don also actively recruits and trains new drivers for the transportation department and has brought in numerous quality drivers to the LPOSD transportation team. Don enthusiastically volunteers his time to train drivers for the regional and Idaho State School Bus Roadeo.”
Hicks’ dedication to his job was demonstrated after he had a devastating ski accident that broke his right leg, requiring 29 screws and two plates through two surgeries, officials said. During his recovery, Hicks was unable to drive a school bus but worked with management to still be able to come into work and serve as dispatcher and continue duties as a driver trainer.
“Don’s determination and resolve helped him through the recovery process and he was back driving within five months,” the nomination letter notes. “In addition, he competed in and won a triathlon.”
• Diane Syth, 2017 Special Needs School Bus Driver of the Year
Diane Syth has drive a school bus for the Lake Pend Oreille School District for the past 25 year, with 13 years as a special needs school bus driver. In those 25 years, Syth has never been involved in a vehicle accident even though her special needs route covers the most miles of any route in the district at over 180 miles daily.
“Diane’s route averages 15 special needs students per day and she has formed a personal relationship with each family on her route,” the nomination letter states. “Diane is respected by all drivers for her knowledge of student management and has been called on many times to assist with student behavior issues.”
District officials said Syth is highly experienced and skilled, meeting the needs of a wide spectrum of students ranging from Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, wheelchair bound, and preschool. Syth also volunteers her time in support of the LPOSD Transportation Association scholarship fund for graduating seniors and she currently serves as the group’s treasurer. In the past four years, the group has helped raise over $7,000 in scholarships.
Her dedication to the district’s students doesn’t stop at the bus. One day while she was driving her route she noticed a young boy jumping across a ditch near the bus stop. On one jump he appeared to land pretty hard on his stomach and she noticed a change in his color.
“Her intuition and experience with children told her that something was wrong so she called the parents of the student,” district officials said in the letter. “They came to the bus stop and took the child to the doctor after Diane expressed her concern to them about his fall. Diane found out later that day that the child was taken to the hospital and had his spleen removed as a result of his injury.”
“The parents were extremely thankful to Diane for her care and critical thinking skills that likely saved the boy’s life.”