Dallas Bardell named St. John school bus driver of the year

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Staff Reporter

RESERVE- Dallas Bardell of Reserve has been named the St. John the Baptist Parish School Bus Driver of the Year for the second straight year. However, he is modest about the honor.

&#8220I could not do this job without the help of the school board administrators, parents, assistants and local people that have helped me and worked with me through the years,” he said.

Bardell has been a school bus driver in St. John the Baptist Parish for six years.

&#8220It’s wonderful to see parents appreciate you as they watch their small children climb up those high steps. Parents always wave to me and some give me small gifts like oranges. Their letters are what won me the Bus Driver of the Year honor,” he said.

He said he was inspired to give back to others because of the people who helped him and wanted to be in a position where he was able to guide others. He also asked that we not forget the many other drivers that get the kids to school on time.

&#8220I chose to become a bus driver because there were so many people early in my life that had faith in me and believed I could be more than what I thought I could,” Bardell said.

As a young man, he served in the Air Force starting at 17, after getting a GED from Fifth Ward High. His father only signed the permission slip for him to go after he promised to finish his education. He served as a radar operator and air controller in the military for over three years and much of his military time was spent in an island in Spain near Madrid.

He has also worked as a janitor, an oil analyst, welder, and later for Nalco, from which he retired.

&#8220I was one of the first black supervisors when I worked as a welder as a result of affirmative action. I excelled all the way to a foreman position, which was rare at that time. Someone was always looking out for me so I just wanted to do the same for others,” he said.

That’s how he came to be a bus driver.

&#8220Johnny Owen really wanted me to be a bus driver. I had run the Dynasty Limousine Service for many years (1987-2000) before my first wife of 39 years became terminally ill and I had to sell, so I had some background in transportation already,” Bardell said.

Being a bus driver makes him feel like he is doing something useful and it occupies his time.

He has four children from his first marriage, two sons and two daughters and three stepchildren with his current wife Cynthia.

&#8220I have raised nine children altogether, so being around them comes natural to me and I like knowing I can affect their lives in a small way. It takes patience and understanding to transport 60 kids on a bus every day,” he said.

&#8220I have learned that children will behave as you expect them to. If you expect that they will cut up, they will, but if you respect them, then they will be respectful of you,” he said.

It’s a challenge to communicate with the children in a positive way, but, he said he is just thankful he is able to do it.

&#8220Working in a school system is just like working hard to make a product we can be proud of; our product just happens to be our children.” Bardell said.

Bardell’s day typically begins at 4 a.m. and he arrives at the school board office to begin his route at 5 a.m. The route usually takes about 3 ? hours, ending around 8:35 a.m. He services four schools: West St. John High, West St. John Elementary, Leon Goudchaux and the Redirectional School. His afternoon route begins at 1 p.m. and he is done by around 4:15 p.m.

&#8220The West Bank is a great place to do bus routes. The people are friendly and down-to-earth and the drivers work together to cover each other if needed. We do not have the same problems with a shortage that the East Bank has,” he said.

Other than dedication Bardell said other requirement are necessary to be a good bus driver.

&#8220You have to first have a CDL license, but you also have to have the endorsement of the schools and a passenger license. They are also required to know basic first aid. Knowing basic bus repair and the parts and functions of the bus is also part of the job.