Shelby County Bus Driver Rhonda Kendrick can now add another title to her resume – State Champion. Kendrick won the Alabama School Transportation Association School Bus Safety Road-E-O, held June 19 at the University of Montevallo.
Kendrick, a 23-year veteran bus driver for the Shelby County School District, won the state competition after qualifying to complete by winning the Shelby County Bus Road-E-O on April 16. At the state competition, she beat the second place finisher by five points and earned the opportunity to compete at the Southeastern States School Bus Road-E-O June 26-27 in Huntsville. As the winner of the state competition, she received a first place plaque, $300 in prize money, and the annual trophy that will be housed at the Shelby County Transportation for the year.
Bus drivers who compete in bus Road-E-O events must maneuver a bus through a very difficult obstacle course designed to test their driving and safety skills. The top four finishers of each local school district Road-E-O advance to state competition, while the top ten in each state advance to the Southeastern competition.
“The competition at the state level is very tough,” Kendrick said. “It is very stiff competition and I was so excited and shocked that I won!”
This was not the first time for Kendrick to compete at state level. She has competed seven or eight times in the past, but never won. She has also competed at the Southeastern competition three times, where she set and still holds the record for a backing portion of the competition. She successfully backed the bus the closest to the object without striking the rear bumper.
Shelby County Transportation Coordinator Kevin Snowden, who is leaving the county to take the reins as the Transportation Director for the State Department of Education at the end of this month, said Kendrick’s record at the Southeastern competition will be hard for anyone to beat.
“She will continue to hold this record unless another competitor can get closer than the thickness of a standard piece of paper without striking the rear standard of the bus,” said Snowden proudly. “I am especially proud of Rhonda and the job she has done.”
While Kendrick set a record at the Southeastern competition she didn’t win or place that year, which shows the level of competition at the event, Kendrick said. She said there is really nothing that drivers can do to prepare or practice for the intense competition. They just have to go out and do the best they can.
“There really isn’t a way to prepare or practice for it you just have to go out and do your best,” she said. “The best thing is to not psych yourself out. I try to practice that myself by trying not to be too nervous, but I always end up being nervous right before,” she said with a laugh.
Kendrick said she takes her job as a bus driver very seriously, because she realizes she has precious cargo onboard.
“I do take my job seriously,” Kendrick said. “I enjoy the children and getting to interact with them. I really try not to be the mean bus driver. During the holidays I spoil them with treats.”
She noted that she is very proud to be associated with the Shelby County School’s Transportation Department because of their proven track record, especially where safety is concerned.
“Our Transportation Department is great,” Kendrick said. “They are always there to assist us as bus drivers. And, they listen to us, especially when we tell them about situations that we don’t feel are safe. They are always there to support us.”