Job Well Done
Garrison commander Col. Bob Pastorelli stands with Redstone’s seven remaining school bus drivers, whose service will end after this school year when Huntsville’s contractor Durham School Services assumes responsibility for transporting all Redstone youngsters. From left are Dennis Martin, Pastorelli, Lisa Bragg, Jesse Hawthorne, Vera Lopez, Jackie Paul, Dena Sisco and Oliver Scretching.

The mood was upbeat as the seven bus drivers gathered for their award ceremony Feb. 3. They represent the last of the line. When the school year ends, Redstone will relinquish its school bus operation in favor of the city of Huntsville's contractor Durham School Services.

This means Redstone will no longer employ school bus drivers.

But here they were smiling and joking. All expressed their appreciation for having served as drivers for Redstone's youngsters, some for more than 20 years.

And Garrison commander Col. Bob Pastorelli wanted them to know how much he and Team Redstone appreciated their service.

"I want to personally thank you for all that you've done for our children," Pastorelli said. "You're the stalwarts here. You made it happen each and every day.

"On behalf of the entire Garrison, and really all of Team Redstone, I want to thank you again for taking care of our children day in and day out."

He presented each a certificate of appreciation and his coin. The certificate cited "exemplary performance of duty while serving as a school bus operator with the Transportation Division, Garrison, Redstone Arsenal."

The seven drivers are employed by Northrop Grumman. Some will retire while some will find work in private industry, according to Carl Pack, motor pool operations supervisor and Northrop Grumman employee. "Some of these people have been working with me for 20 years," he said.

When they gathered for the awards ceremony at the motor pool, Oliver Scretching referred to himself and the other drivers as "the magnificent seven." Everyone enjoyed the humor.

The day also happened to be his 63rd birthday. Scretching, who drove with Laidlaw for 11 years before arriving at Redstone in March 2006, said he plans to take each day as it comes.

"I've got a lot of fire left in me and I'm just planning for the future," he said. "Take one step at a time."

Dena Sisco arrived in 1997 from St. Louis, where she also drove a school bus.

"I hate to leave here because I've been driving like 17 years. I drove in St. Louis," said Sisco, 49, who resides in Owens Cross Roads. "I really don't have any (plans) right now. Maybe take care of the grandkids."

Jesse Hawthorne, 70, has driven here since 1995.

"I actually have a second job I can go to already, and I just occupy myself," Hawthorne said. "I have enjoyed it (at Redstone). I'm definitely going to miss the kids."

Jackie Paul has been here 22 years and Vera Lopez for 15 years. Lisa Bragg said she has driven here "on and off 21 years," including some breaks in service. She has been at Redstone the last four years after a couple of years off.

Dennis Martin, 57, arrived three years ago after driving for Laidlaw the previous seven. He said he's unsure of his plans.

"I really don't know," Martin said. "Maybe going to Durham, but I'll also be applying different places. I live in Athens so I'm going to see if I can find something in Athens."

Redstone began withdrawing from the school bus business in phases this school year when Huntsville started transporting Redstone youngsters who attend Columbia and New Century high schools. The next phase began after the Christmas break when the city started transporting students to J.E. Williams Middle School. Next year, the city will transport students to J.E. Williams Elementary. Durham School Services is contracted by Huntsville to provide school bus transportation.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16