3 Feb

Clients in the News: Bryant School District, AR

Students’ safety is top priority for new transportation director

From Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
by Sam Pierce | February 3, 2019

The most important goal for Scott Curtis, the new transportation director for the Bryant School District, is to ensure student safety.

“We are going to be the best at how we treat students,” Curtis said. “Our key is safety. We are going to come to work every day with a positive attitude and work hard for our students. …

“… Our department takes a lot of pride in being the best. We are going to be the best in providing student safety so that our families and students have the comfort of mind that they are going to be returned safely.”

Curtis has been the assistant transportation director for the district for the past two years. He replaces former director Tom Farmer, who was elected as the mayor for the city of Benton in November.

“Scott bleeds Bryant blue through and through,” Bryant Superintendent Karen Walters said. “He has been a Bryant student, teacher, coach, assistant principal and has now moved into a director’s role.

“He always has the best interest of students and the district at heart. We are proud that he is a member of our Bryant One Team and look forward to seeing him excel as a leader.”

Curtis graduated from Bryant High School in 1988. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia in 1994. Following graduation, Farmer, who was the athletic director at Bryant at the time, hired Curtis as a basketball coach, and he spent 12 years on the staff.

Curtis moved to administration in 2006, serving as an assistant principal at Bryant High School until 2016.

“I am very fortunate that I have been here this long,” Curtis said. “It is a great place to be … watching the town grow and also our district. We have a lot of support in Bryant, not only support for the schools but also the different businesses.”

Curtis said becoming the transportation director fulfills one of his life goals.

“Everybody has to be a lifetime learner,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a leader. What a better opportunity to work under and learn under Coach Farmer for the past 25 years.

“He was the one who hired me as a coach. Being around him, he helped me and shaped me to be in this next role.”

Farmer said Curtis is very attentive and knows what needs to be done.

“His heart is about kids,” Farmer said. “That’s why he got into teaching. Working together for several years, he knows the routes, and every day, he monitors and adjusts as needed.

“He will do an outstanding job.”

Farmer described Curtis as a “a fine young Christian man who loves God and loves people.”

“Every time we had an individual who needed something — it didn’t matter what it was — if we presented the need to Scott, he would help meet those needs,” Farmer said. “It didn’t matter if it was a community member, a child or an employee — he cares.

“You can’t be the transportation director without caring about people.”

Curtis said Farmer was not only his direct supervisor, but also his mentor and friend, and they have always had a good relationship.

“He has groomed me for the past 2 1/2 years to step into this role once he left,” Curtis said. “This department has a strong family atmosphere, and when one of us is joyful, we are all joyful. It is full of very unique individuals that I look forward to working alongside each day.”

Bryant transports about 6,800 students districtwide and currently runs 76 buses, with around 88 fleet drivers. Curtis said the district has access to roughly 100 buses and has buses going out seven days a week, as a result of sporting events and competitions such as choir, band, quiz bowl or other activities. He said the district is still about seven or eight drivers short right now, and it is not uncommon for mechanics or even Curtis to be driving every day.

“It is just an opportunity to be around kids,” Curtis said of driving. “Being an administrator, you don’t get that interaction, but driving the routes and seeing what a great community we live in, I have no issues at all driving the bus.”

Curtis said anyone who is interested in becoming a bus driver for the school district may call him.

“I would love to sit down and visit with them,” he said.

There is always an opened link to the human-resource page, and those interested should fill out the application online to get the process started, he said.

In order to be a bus driver for the Bryant School District, applicants must have a

Class B commercial driver’s license with a passenger and student endorsement. They also have to provide a current physical, a drug screen and a background check. Curtis warned that there is a lot of upfront cost to becoming a driver, but he said the end result is “very rewarding.”

“I wish there was a way we could offset the cost, but currently, we don’t have any way,” Curtis said. “But once you come on board, you will receive all kinds of training.

“We have an incredible staff that takes pride in teaching each driver how to be safe on the bus. … We take a lot of pride at Bryant to ensure student safety.”

Curtis said this year, the administration implemented a districtwide program called Capturing Kids’ Hearts, and he said it has already made a huge impact, not only at the building level but also at the transportation level.

“We have seen incredible results at all layers,” he said. “Without the support of the central office, this program would not be showing the kind of success that we are seeing each day.”

The transportation department also hired Shannon Pinson for its dispatcher router position, and the district purchased an online routing software called Transfinder. He said it helps his department provide safer transportation for the students and helps communicate better with parents for updates on bus routes and bus times.

“It helps us from an administrator side because it lets us know who is assigned to each bus and what we need to do to adjust different routes,” he said.

Curtis said Terry Harper, who currently teaches for the district, will join the department July 1 as the new assistant transportation director.

“He will be an incredible asset to our department,” Curtis said. “He will bring a lot more tools to our program and is only going to make us better.

“He is a proven leader in the community.”

Curtis’ wife, Renee, is the director of student services for the Bryant School District, and the couple have been married 22 years. Their oldest son, Luke, is a freshman at Arkansas Tech University in

Russellville and a member of the football team. Their youngest son is a sophomore at Bryant High School and was part of the football state-championship win in December.

“It was a great experience for everybody in our family,” Scott Curtis said.

Renee’s job focuses on dealing with the social and emotional learning for the district and is typically implemented in the classroom. However, Scott said, “we have actually started to implement layers of it in our transportation department.”

“We have started building better relationships between our drivers and our students,” he said. “We have seen good rapport with our students, and it has shown a decrease with our student discipline, which makes it safer for everybody as they ride to and from school.”

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or spierce@arkansasonline.com.