Bus dispatch supervisor would do job free

Even during his four years as a bus driver, Bernando Brown, now a DeKalb County School District dispatch supervisor, said he always dressed up for the job. Photo by Andrew Cauthen

Bernando Brown wants to be known as a transportation professional.

That’s why the 45-year-old worked to earn pupil transportation supervisor certification by the National Association for Pupil Transportation, a nonprofit organization which represents school transportation professionals. Brown is only the 49th person in the country to receive the certification since it was introduced in 1989.

“I wanted to be known as a transportation [professional],” Brown said. “I don’t want to be known as just a bus driver.

Brown said the value of the certification is the knowledge he has received.

“Getting this certification only helps the transportation department because I bring knowledge as far as budgeting, strategic planning [and leadership training]. …it makes me an overall transportation professional,” Brown said. “I’m not just only someone who can speak one spectrum.”

Brown served in the U.S. Army and retired as a sergeant first class in 2007..

In 2002, while in the military, Brown participated in a Veterans’ Day event at Columbia Middle School.

“As I looked around, …I didn’t see a lot of men,” said Brown, who attended Bob Mathis Elementary School and graduated from Lakeside High School. “I told the teacher that was assigned as my escort [that] when I retire, I’m coming back to the school district in some capacity. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I was going to come back because I am someone from the community that wanted to make a difference, that wanted to be here for the children.”

Brown joined the school district as a bus driver in October 2009 and became a dispatch supervisor four years later.

Brown described his job as the “voice of the transportation department.”

“All communications come through us,” he said. “I take calls from parents…addressing all kinds of concerns they might have.” Additionally, the department communicates with schools and bus drivers.

“When emergencies happen, we’re the ones they call so we can reach out to 911,” Brown said.

During the January winter storm, Brown and several managers stayed in the dispatch department all night.

“One thing I told a couple of drivers is that as long as they were out there I was going to be in here talking to them,” Brown said. “I started as a driver and I know that one of the things they wanted to hear is that they weren’t out there by themselves.”

Brown said he enjoys “knowing that we’re here to help the parents and the students of DeKalb County.”

“When I get that call from a parent that’s upset because their child was either placed on the wrong bus or they haven’t gotten home yet…and we’re able to locate that child and just comfort the parent and know that parent is happy–that’s what’s rewarding to me,” he said. “It’s not about all the riches in the world, but knowing that the things that I’m doing every day are helping someone.

“I can deal with being yelled at,” Brown said. “I was in combat; they’re not shooting bullets at me. I’m a parent and a grandparent so I can put myself in [parents’] shoes.”

“This is one of those jobs I would do for free,” Brown said. “The reward is that I actually get a paycheck for it. I like doing this.

“Becoming a certified supervisor of pupil transportation is like icing on the cake,” he said. “It’s a milestone that very few have achieved and I know I’m doing my part in getting better. All it’s going to do is improve the school district one person at a time.”

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