Fishers Couple Closes In On 40 Years As HSE Bus Drivers
Photographer: Ron Wise
There’s a Fishers couple who’ve been keeping the wheels on the bus going, and there’s a good chance your kids know who they are. Meet Stan and Betty Clark. Betty has been driving for 40 years now, and Stan for about 35. Together, they work hard to keep kids safe on their journeys to and from school.
Stan’s family owned a farm in Fishers, and in the 1970s, farmers often were bus drivers and owned their own buses. Stan’s uncle owned a bus, and he drove a route to supplement the family income. When he needed a substitute driver, he called upon Betty to fill in. She was only too happy to fill in.
“I’ve always loved the idea of being a bus driver ever since I was a child,” she says. “My dad was a bus driver for a city bus line. He drove a route from Sheridan to Westfield to Downtown Indy. He was dressed up every day in uniform, and I always thought it was cool.”
Betty drove the route as a contractor for five years, then was hired on with Hamilton Southeastern Schools as a full-time driver in 1983. Stan continued his farming duties, and when the family sold the farm, he began driving in 1987. The pair soon realized it wasn’t just a fun way to supplement their income, the insurance and benefits, like PERF (public employee benefit fund) began to pay off.
A lot has changed through the years since Stan and Betty began driving. They’ve seen the city of Fishers transform, and they’ve seen the job and the kids transform. Betty recalls how the Fishers landscape grew before their eyes.
“In the beginning, Cumberland Road was a very narrow, two-lane road,” she says. “You barely had room to pass the car going the opposite direction. At 126th Street and Olio Road, right by the high school, there was a pole in the way. We used to have to swing our buses wide to avoid it. Now Olio is a major thoroughfare.”
The developing landscape and expanding population directly impacted Stan’s and Betty’s jobs.
“When we started, there was just one high school, one junior high and three elementary schools,” Betty says. “We started with 18 routes and grew to over 300 routes.”
New technology has provided added tools to enhance the job, like GPS tracking and the ability to notify parents of a late bus arrival or other changes.
“Before the new school year began, we used to sit as a group, take our paper and pencil and choose our routes and draw them out. We worked it out between ourselves,” she says. “Now, the computer does all the routes automatically.”
The change that’s perhaps the most near and dear to Stan and Betty’s hearts is the change in the faces of the kids.
“We’ve been driving so long, we’re on our second generation of kids,” Betty says. “Some of the parents we see were the kids we used to drive, and now we’re driving their kids. Several parents ask us if we remember them. They all touch our hearts. When we see these kids on their very first day of school, it brings a tear to our eyes just as it does mom and dad. It’s amazing to see them change. We take care of all of them like they’re our own.”
As much as Stan and Betty love their jobs, there are challenges just like with any job. Any Fishers residents with kids are more than a little familiar with the redistricting initiative that resulted in some kids changing schools and bus routes. The changes had Stan and Betty hopping to keep the routes and times balanced. But they took it in stride and kept rolling with the changes.
“At the end of the day, no matter what the changes are, our main goal will stay the same,” Betty says. “Our job is to get the kids to and from school safely.”
After 40 years of driving the bus for Hamilton Southeastern Schools, the Clarks aren’t ready to slow down just yet. Betty says they’re considering 2020 as a tentative goal for retirement. But in the meantime, she’s got some words of advice to pass along to the next generation of prospective drivers.
“It’s really hard for the schools to recruit good bus drivers and keep them because the job isn’t eight hours a day,” she says. “But it’s a great job for a mom not just for the benefits, but because you can take your kids with you and you’re finished when your kids are out of school. It’s not just a job, it’s a profession. Many people don’t realize that to become a licensed bus driver requires training and passing a test for their commercial driver’s license. That means we’re held to a higher standard for driving skills, staying in good health and taking care of the kids.”
Congratulations to the Clarks for keeping Hamilton Southeastern School children safe and their buses rolling along for nearly 40 years. The school district, the children and their parents are fortunate to have such special bus drivers at the wheel.