Orange City Schools bus drivers not only took home awards for first place on May 6 at the Ohio State Bus Safety ROAD-E-O in both the team and individual competitions, but made school district history.
Sheila Dikowicz, Transportation Supervisor, says that the Orange School team made history by taking first place in both events and did the same in the regional bus driver competition.
“At regionals, everyone in the top placements was one of our drivers, which hasn’t happened before,” Dikowicz said. “We made history again by getting first in the team event and the individual one.”
Eight school districts, including Orange, competed last October in North Region regionals in Vermillion. The most successful bus drivers there, six from each district, went on to state competition.
“There’s around 40 total drivers at state,” said Chuck SantaMaria, an Orange bus driver who won first place at state. “The North region has probably won [regionals] 15 or 16 years in a row. All six drivers that went to states were Orange drivers. It’s rare that you get all six on the team from one school.”
The Orange drivers winning in the team competition were Debbie Becker, Debbie Burns, Teresa Jaszczak, Jim Romano, Chuck SantaMaria, and Shannon SantaMaria.
Three of the Orange competition team members also placed in the individual category: Mr. SantaMaria was the first-place winner, Teresa Jaszczak came in fifth, and Debbie Becker came in sixth place.
Mr. SantaMaria has won the State Championship more than anyone else, he claims.
“I’ve won it five separate years, and the most anyone else has ever won is two.” he said. “The first year I won in 2007, I entered into the special needs category. I won it again from 2009 to 2011, and this year.”
His wife, Shannon SantaMaria, noted that he was also the only person to win states in the special needs and regular categories. In the previous years that he won, Mr. SantaMaria was awarded a plaque, but this year he took home a trophy.
The Ohio Bus Driver Safety ROAD-E-O is held annually by the Ohio Department of Education, the Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation, the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, and the Ohio Education Association. The competition is made up of different tests of safety that evaluate the knowledge and driving skill of the bus drivers.
“There are written tests and then the maneuverability events. It’s all driving tests and written tests.” Dikowicz said.
The written tests assess the knowledge of safety procedures and codes.
“It’s questions about safety, revised codes, and identifying [bus] parts,” Mr. SantaMaria said. “One test is a timed pre-trip inspection, where we check things like our lights and our brakes, looking for five defects to identify.”
The driving tests included a “reverse serpentine,” according to Mr. SantaMaria, where drivers had to “serpentine” through cones while driving the bus in reverse, as well as an “alley dock” where the drivers back into a dock without touching the walls. There was a staged procedure for crossing a railroad, and a test where drivers must stop the bus with the front bumper two inches from the wall.
Although Mr. SantaMaria is proud of his wins over the years at the Bus Safety ROAD-E-O, this is the last year that he will be competing in it.
“I told myself that after I won it one more time that I would retire from the competition,” he said.
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