FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
Fairfield-Suisun School District bus driver Allison Smith walks out of her bus to inspect the tires for nails during her checklist evaluation before closing the bus down for the day, Dec. 16. Smith has been driving school buses for the past 16 years. (Mike Greener/Daily Republic)

Fairfield-Suisun School District bus driver Allison Smith walks out of her bus to inspect the tires for nails during her checklist evaluation before closing the bus down for the day, Dec. 16. Smith has been driving school buses for the past 16 years. (Mike Greener/Daily Republic)

A day in the life, 2011

School bus driver keeps it warm, friendly

By From page A3 | December 27, 2011

FAIRFIELD — It’s midday at the school district bus yard, the buses just got washed and drivers are back in the break room preparing for their afternoon routes.

The portable near the county animal shelter and Claybank jail, while unremarkable on the exterior, is warm and friendly inside.

It’s the kind of place where co-workers solve puzzles together, trust each other enough to have a snack bar with an honor policy payment system, and swap stories. Some of them are doozies: students throwing eggs and fruit at buses, grabbing on to the bumpers of moving buses and unable to control their bladder or bowels.

At the center of it all is Allison Smith. Smith, a veteran driver, takes a motherly approach to her job, organizing potlucks and shopping for the snack bar on lunch breaks or off days.

Smith is a children’s pastor at a church in Vallejo and plans to open an after-school program when she retires. But that’s four years away.

She has learned a thing or two in her 16 years. Her first two years, she drove a bus with 84 passengers, carting up to 250 children a day. But she discovered she preferred to drive special-needs children. Now she drives about 50 children a day.

“Kids that need an extra touch,” she said. Also, “you get paid by the hour, not by the student.”

This particular day is a lighter load for Smith. It’s the day before the holiday break, but the high school and middle school students are already out. So in the afternoon she has one route to Root Elementary School instead of three. Smith circles the bus, tapping on each tire to make sure none are flat. In the morning, she opens the hood to inspect the engine. At about 1:45 p.m., bus No. 62 takes off.

Four children board at Root and Smith knows each by name. She quizzes one about whether or not he has candy in his backpack as she buckles him in. She gives a toy store advertising book to one girl and asks how her day went. One child, whom Smith drove when she was in preschool, is unusually quiet on this day, Smith said.

Smith, dressed in a Christmas sweater with a dog in a Santa hat and candy canes, puts on Christmas music by the Chipmunks to lighten the mood.

Each child is dropped off at his or her home. The route takes about an hour start to finish. After the last child, Smith shuts off the Chipmunks. She steps out at the bus yard to tap the tires again, searches the bus to make sure no children are inside and then — she is officially on holiday.

Reach David DeBolt at 427-6935 or [email protected]

David DeBolt

David DeBolt

A native of Vacaville, DeBolt was a newspaperman in Palo Alto before coming home to work at the DR in June 2011. He covers education, county government and politics. His friends call him "Scoop."
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Discussion | 16 comments

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  • Jacqueline HydeDecember 28, 2011 - 9:31 am

    If this article isn't a bunch of bs!. Work there for one day and you'll see nothing but lying, coniving, backstabbing and plain awful people! The management of that establishment is a joke. It's no wonder the transportation department is constantly on the chopping block. Bunch of people who want to do nothing and get paid for it. Gripe and moan about anything and everything. There are even people there who will warp a story heard in that "cozy" lil break room and turn it into to some horrendous fallacy for yet another reason to run to the crappy union to file some grievance. It's no wonder their jobs are on the line year after year..who the heck wants to deal with such asinine people? It used to be that people worked for the school district to be influential in the lives of students, sadly that's not the case for the FSUSD transportation dept., they are in it for themselves and anyone who doesn't have the same ideas is, pardon the pun, thrown under the bus. Good luck to the handful, and I do mean 5, of the bus drivers that are actually decent honest caring people such as Allison, on yet another year of cuts to come for transportation.

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  • CD BrooksDecember 28, 2011 - 9:36 am

    Uh huh, I see. Gee, tell us how you really feel! Are you one of the "5?" WOW...

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  • Debbie the real DealDecember 28, 2011 - 9:42 am

    Jac...it seems if you really cared about the 5 decent, honest, caring people including Allison you wouldn't have used this beautiful publication to vent your opinion about FSUSD. This was an Honor for Allison and your selfishness took that away. I hope you feel better! Get some Anger Management ....

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  • CD BrooksDecember 28, 2011 - 9:46 am

    Debbie the real Deal, Could not agree more!

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  • Debbie the real DealDecember 28, 2011 - 9:49 am

    Thank you! Happy Wednesday :)

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  • Debbie the real DealDecember 28, 2011 - 9:48 am

    And ....by the way....thank you to all of the FS School bus drivers that transport our children and grandchildren every day, back and forth to school and get them there safely avoiding all the ANGRY people on the road that cant manage every day life and take it out behind the wheel. We appreciate YOU and respect the work you do..... every day!!!! Koodos...:)

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  • msparksDecember 28, 2011 - 2:12 pm

    i worked there over 26 years. there was some bad time, but some good times. We managed to transport students to and from school safely. the job is what u make of it. All the drivers deserve a shout out for getting behind the wheel with students behind them. Not just anyone can do this. Be thankful there are caring people that love our kids enough to do this.

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  • antonio cruzDecember 28, 2011 - 5:42 pm

    Jacqueline Hyde, FREEDOM OF SPEECH SWEETIE. You say what you need to say. Although I do see your point Debbie I still support the right of Freedom of speech.

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  • lisaDecember 28, 2011 - 9:28 pm

    I am all for Freedom of Speech.....I just think that if someone is going to make such a harsh statement they should have some proof......maybe a video tape! Especially since Jaq did not have the nerve to us their real name....

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  • Christine in FFDecember 28, 2011 - 9:36 pm

    Pretty sure that IS her real name~ her WHOLE name!

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  • lisaDecember 28, 2011 - 9:53 pm

    Google it

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  • Christine in FFDecember 28, 2011 - 11:20 pm

    Ok~ you got me there. BUT~ I dunno~ doesn't mean it's not her real name too.

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  • lisaDecember 28, 2011 - 10:34 pm

    Who toll ju dat christine?

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  • Christine in FFDecember 28, 2011 - 11:12 pm

    Who tow ju it watit her name?

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  • CD QuickdrawDecember 29, 2011 - 11:49 am

    Thank you Jacqueline Hyde for expressing yourself The five you are referring to could also be applied to the five minutes it took one of the many quick-draw internet gunslingers to reply to your comments with some babbling nonsense.

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  • lalaDecember 31, 2011 - 11:35 pm

    the only bs in here is JAQUELIN you claim you only work for trasportation for only one day , is clear to me that you work for trasportation and you throwing EVERYBODY under the bus . this only means you work there , you a very angry selfish person just because you wasnt the one that got chosen to do this article . so aaha to you !! ALLISON and EVERYBODY ELSE KEEP UP THE GREAT JOB !! ( not you JACQUELIN )

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