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Fort Mill Schools bus driver wins $2,000 travel giveaway


Jon Rock, left, with Rock Communications and Tom Buckley, right, Director of Transportation for Fort Mill Schools, present $2,000 travel voucher to Deborah Hovis, Fort Mill Schools Bus Driver. Deborah is the winner of the All Aboard Driver Referral Program Cruise Giveaway!


“I’m always ready to travel,” said Deborah Hovis, and for her that means for work and for pleasure. For the past 16 years, on nearly a daily basis, she has traveled extensively along the beautiful highways and byways of South Carolina.


She currently does it on a big yellow bus filled with children. You see, Deborah is starting her third year as a school bus driver for the Fort Mill School District, and before that she spent 13 years driving a bus for the YMCA in Columbia, South Carolina.


So yes, Deborah is always ready to travel for work, playing a vital role protecting our area children by helping them get to and from school safely. But what about traveling for pleasure? This coming year should be a lot more exciting for her in the leisure travel department ....


Deborah’s the big winner!


Deborah earned an entry into the All Aboard Driver Referral Program Giveaway by referring a candidate who is now a fellow school bus driver. Deborah’s name was then randomly selected as winner of the $2,000 prize, a travel gift certificate courtesy of Rock Communications LLC, the promotion sponsor.


She learned of her good fortune at a recent summer staff breakfast meeting of the Fort Mill School District’s transportation team when Tom Buckley, director of transportation, announced Deborah as the winner. The prize gives her flexibility to make her own travel plans, and she’s considering various options such as a beach getaway, Colorado Springs and visiting family in Seattle, Washington.


Unsung heroes in our schools


“Whatever destination she chooses, I’m sure it’s a well-earned escape,” said Jon Rock, president of Rock Communications. “All school employees deserve our praise and respect, but school bus drivers have unique responsibilities and challenges that are too often taken for granted.”


Rock Communications is in the business of student safety on buses and campuses. The company provides two-way radio systems, service and coverage to school districts throughout South Carolina and works closely with area transportation directors and their drivers.


To help give back to the schools and community, Rock developed a three-part effort to raise awareness and help fill a shortage for vital bus driver positions. In addition to the driver referral giveaway, Rock created a website with information for potential bus drivers (SchoolBusCareer.com) and sponsored a radio campaign on WWNQ 94.3 to promote the effort.


As a school district transportation director supervising 138 driver positions, Tom Buckley appreciates the effort and support. “It was awesome,” he said. “I was surprised when Jon called me about the promotion which was really outside the box.”


School bus driver shortage


Covid-19 has had a dramatic negative impact on recruitment and hiring for many businesses, including schools. But filling bus driver positions has always been a challenge that Covid made even more difficult, according to Buckley who has been a school transportation director for nearly 14 years (4.5 with Fort Mill and 9 previously in Maryland).


The Fort Mill School District currently has 138 bus driver positions, and at the height of the pandemic was 22 drivers short, said Buckley. Things are getting better, but with the first day of school scheduled for August 16, he’s still 12 drivers short.


The position is great for many people based on their individual or family situation. The hours, schedule and access to benefits definitely attract retirees (winner Deborah Hovis included). But parents of students may enjoy sharing the same breaks – winter, spring, holidays and summers – as their children. Buckley said it’s ideal for anyone seeking extra income, great benefits and a rewarding career with a local school system.


A challenging but rewarding job


For one, the hours are unique, typically requiring split shifts, early mornings and afternoons, six hours a day, 180 days a year. Plus, driving a 40-foot vehicle requires a training process that could take 30-45 days including classroom work, road and skills tests and securing a Class B CDL license. It’s also a huge responsibility ultimately focused on keeping children safe.


School bus drivers working 30+ hours per week have access to excellent benefits – health, dental, retirement and more, said Buckley. But he’ll certainly consider applicants for both full-time and part-time positions.


Explore career possibilities!

Driving a school bus may be ideal for you or someone you know. Find out more at SchoolBusCareer.com (click the site at right) or contact your local school system. Consider the advantages including competitive pay, flexible schedules, terrific benefits and free paid CDL training. Who knows? Your own exotic destination and $2,000 prize might be waiting somewhere down the road.


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