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California Department of Education
News Release
Release: #12-69
July 10, 2012
Contact: Communications
Phone: 916-319-0818

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson
Congratulates California School Bus Drivers

SACRAMENTO—Six California school bus drivers will be headed to Wisconsin this weekend to take part in a two-day bus driving competition, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson announced today.

They will be competing at the 42nd Annual School Bus Driver International Safety Competition hosted by the National School Transportation Association [] External link opens in new window or tab. on July 14-15, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

"School bus drivers and other classified employees are absolutely integral not only to the operations of their school district, but they often make a real difference in the lives of the kids they serve," Torlakson said. "They are knowledgeable, enthusiastic members of their school communities, and they make the safety of our children their top priority. It’s my absolute pleasure to recognize the contributions of these outstanding workers and wish them luck in Milwaukee."

During the competition, drivers from across the nation and Canada will demonstrate their professional knowledge and skill. The event kicks off with a written exam, and then contestants jump into the driver’s seat of a bus to showcase their driving skills, competing in one of three categories for the top honors. The weekend culminates with an annual awards banquet.

California school bus drivers will compete in the following categories: Conventional Bus: Jana Graham, Student Transportation of America; and Brent Carman, Morgan Hill Unified School District; Small Bus: Mallory Gray, Student Transportation of America; and Eleanor Taylor, Monterey County Office of Education; and Transit Bus: Antonio Perez, San Dieguito Union High School District; and Rene Hildenbrand, First Student, Inc., Santa Rosa.

The competition began as the National School Bus Safety Roadeo in 1971 and continues to take place annually. Across the country, school bus drivers compete in regional competitions, such as the California Association of School Transportation Officials [] External link opens in new window or tab. (CASTO) State Championship Roadeo, which was held on May 27, 2012.

Similar to the national competition, drivers competed against each other using their skills in precision driving with a primary emphasis on safety. Drivers practice many hours, often volunteering extra time to achieve excellence.

California Regional School Bus Safety Roadeos occur in many different locations and are coordinated by chapter representatives. State Roadeos are administered by CASTO and are sponsored by the leaders in the school transportation industry. Two Sectional State Roadeos and one State Championship Roadeo are held each year, with some of the winners moving on to compete at the national level.

The 2012 CASTO State Championship Roadeo Winners are:

First Place: Antonio Perez, San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD). As the lead driver instructor, Perez began his school bus transportation career at the age of 20 and has been with SDUHSD for 10 years. His awards have included top three and top five finishes in local competitions; five first-place finishes in the Southern Sectionals; and three State Championship titles, becoming the first competitor to achieve that honor. Perez spends much of his time training other drivers, working with his local CASTO chapter, and conducting classroom and behind-the-wheel training for new and current drivers at his local YMCA.

Second Place: Christopher Bates, Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD). Bates, the dispatcher for the district’s Transportation Department, started his career in school bus transportation in 1992 and has been competing in Roadeos ever since. As captain of the PVUSD Roadeo team, Bates trains and recruits new drivers who compete in sectional and statewide Roadeos, and has personally competed in the last six CASTO State Championships. He is extensively involved with the school bus industry, and making sure that safety remains a top priority.

Third Place: Douglas Smith, Snowline Joint Unified School District. Smith has spent the last 12 years as a school bus driver and instructor and served as a state certified driver instructor for the last eight years. Upon joining his district, he started the district’s Roadeo team and has since earned first and second place finishes at sectionals and state championships. In addition, he was invited to participate in the International School Bus Safety Roadeo competitions in 2009 and 2011, placing in the top 10 in both events. Smith received the California School Bus Driver of the Year award from the California Highway Patrol in 2010.

Special Needs: Robelyn Concillado Watson, San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD). Watson began her school bus transportation career at the age of 19, joining SDUSD two years later and going on to become a trainer and instructor. She has been a member of CASTO Chapter 3 and the SDUSD Roadeo team since 2007. Watson has competed the last two years by driving a wheelchair accessible school bus in the special needs category and finished with first place awards at the CASTO State Championships in 2011 and 2012. This past March, she competed at the National Special Needs Roadeo in Orlando, Florida, placing 13th overall. Watson will compete at the Disabilities Conference/Roadeo in Frisco, Texas on March 8, 2013.

Team Competition: Les Johnson, Stephanie Oliver, Mallory Gray, Student Transportation of America. The team competition category consists of the North Team and the South Team, which coincidentally were from the same company. The winning team is composed of three competitors whose individual scores are combined to determine the overall winner of that category.

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Tom Torlakson — State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100

Last Reviewed: Monday, December 30, 2019
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