On the Road with Sandy Carney: Why one woman started driving a school bus and why she is still driving
Published 4:00 am Sunday, August 6, 2023
“The wheels on the bus go round and round,” are lyrics to a catchy little children’s tune, but for Sandy Carney, bus wheels going round and round have been a way of life for more than 30 years.
When Carney was a young mother, she wanted to make a little extra money for her family but she wasn’t willing to put her children in daycare. Therefore, she decided to take a job as a bus driver for the Vicksburg Warren School District.
“That’s what I loved about it (driving the bus),” Carney said. “You could have your babies on the bus when you ran your routes and then come home, so you didn’t have to put them in daycare. It was a good way for me to balance being a mother and still be a working mother.”
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To become a bus driver, Carney had to qualify for a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and after doing so, started out driving a bus with a stick shift.
“I learned driving a stick shift on the school bus and it was quite an experience — taking off, slowing down, taking off again,” she said. “I practiced and practiced, and I was so scared, but I finally learned to drive a stick before school started.”
Carney said she now drives a bus with air brakes, which is much easier, but it, too, requires certification. And last year, she finally got a bus with air-conditioning.
This year Carney said she was upgraded to a new bus that also has air-conditioning.
“So, I’m blessed about that. It’s always exciting to get a little bit newer (bus),” she said.
As a bus driver for the VWSD, Carney said every other summer drivers must attend “bus school.”
“We have a trainer who goes over everything and talks about things that we need to be aware of,” she said. And then there are bus driver meetings, she said, that are held three to four times during a school year. “(The meetings) keep us on our toes.”
When it comes to disciplining students on her bus, Carney said no one gets a pass.
She even recalled writing her son up one year.
“I had to show the other children I wasn’t showing any favoritism,” she said.
During Carney’s 32 years as a school bus driver, the mechanics of the bus have changed, and so have the children, she said.
“To me, there are more kids,” she said, and the level of respect has changed.
And while it’s not all of the students, Carney did admit that there are always a couple that “make your day hard.”
However, that has not deterred her from a job she said she loves.
“I just enjoy doing it (driving a school bus),” she said. “You know, it gives me something to do, and I can make some money and I get to interact with kids.
“A lot of them (students) really need us, you know, because a lot of them, you don’t realize what they go through at home until you see them walk on that bus. You can tell from their attitude, you know, something’s wrong. I try to be there, but we aren’t allowed to say a lot,” Carney added. “But we can always say some kind words.”
Carney’s kindness to the students who have ridden her bus is evident even after they no longer need a school bus driver.
“I’ve had kids to ride my bus and now they have families, and they still interact with me,” she said, adding that one former student still stays in contact even though she has moved from Vicksburg.
Carney said she plans to continue driving a bus for a few more years, because of the children who ride and because of the friendships she has made with other VWSD bus drivers.
“I call them my family. It’s just nice to see their faces. We wave to each other when we go by, and we have fun when we have our meetings,” she said.