Normally the district shop manager makes the decision which test is more appropriate for the technician attending the Workshop, but quite often the technicians, once they arrive, opt to take both tests, and pay the extra $15 out of their own pockets. Why? For some it’s a mark of pride, and for others it’s a chance to get ahead.
“Some districts—my district did this, because I really pushed for it—offer a financial incentive,” Callahan explains. “We were able to supplement their pay originally by 17 cents and ultimately by 23 cents an hour per certificate, and they could earn up to six ASE certificates and four FAPT certificates. So, they could earn $2.30 an hour more for being a certified technician. Not all districts were able to do that to that level, but some built it into their job descriptions that within two years of being employed, you must have one or two, or however many certificates we feel are important to us.
“So now, no sooner have they handed the test in than they’re standing outside the door wanting to know their scores,” he says. “And sometimes if they don’t pass, they’ll pay the $15 to take it again the next night! Because they want to be successful. Whether their district counts it or not, they’re here for a reason and they want to show people that they live up to that.”
BREAKFAST AT 4
You might think that training technicians from 67 different shops, with 67 different ways of doing things, would be impossible, but you’d be wrong. “(They are) very different groups of technicians, and they don’t always speak the same language,” Callahan admits, “but they all respect each other, and it’s really very refreshing to bring these guys in from all over the state, with the common denominator of school bus repair, and find out that they’re made of the same stuff.
“They’re very sincere, they’re very hard-working, and what’s funny is they always want us to start earlier, because they’re so used to early hours,” he says. “Many of these guys go in at 5:30 in the morning. They say, ‘What do you mean, breakfast isn’t until 7? Breakfast should be at 4!’”
It’s that attitude that, in the final analysis, makes the Annual School Bus Technicians Summer Workshop such a success. Everyone gathered at the Workshop has a common goal: to provide the children of Florida with safe, reliable transportation to and from school. As Sparks is fond of saying to the technicians in attendance, Florida’s school buses carry the most precious cargo in the world.
“Our whole mission is to know that Florida has the best safety program there is for student transportation,” he says. “The smarter my technician, the quicker he’s going to move that bus back on the street. The better we can make our mechanics, our drivers, our attendants, the better off our children are going to be. The true winners in this program are the children.”