National School Bus Safety Week may be over, but for Michael Henley, the safety of Atlanta Public Schools’ students remains his No. 1 priority every day of the year.
In his role as North Region Assistant Transportation Supervisor, Henley oversees the morning operations for all regular education buses at Grady, Douglass, Maynard Jackson and North Atlanta high schools, and all feeder schools in the North Atlanta cluster. His day starts bright and early at 4:45 each morning, at which time he’s busy doing everything from securing substitute bus operators and checking up on buses that broke down the night prior, to responding to bus accidents and communicating with parent and school leaders.
“It’s a lot of logistics and a lot of moving parts,” said Henley, a former Fulton County elementary school teacher who began his new role with APS in July.
For Henley, student safety isn’t just a job – it’s his passion. At the age of 18, Henley began his career with Fulton County Schools as a bus operator, followed by a four-year stint as a bus safety trainer, where he trained new and aspiring bus operators on CDL requirements, bus maneuvers and safe school transportation policies.
Henley didn’t stop there. After six years as a bus driver and safety trainer, he fulfilled his ultimate dream of becoming a teacher with Fulton County Schools.
“I loved teaching – it’s a great profession, but I hated being cooped up in the classroom,” he said. “I’m really big on building relationships, and I found that I could build relationships better in the transportation department versus the classroom. The way my mind is configured, I liked the moving pieces, being out and about, and working with all sorts of different people. I just really enjoyed it, so I came back to my roots.”
As assistant transportation supervisor, Henley said his unique background helps him better understand logistics and the various roles that transportation employees perform.
“I’m the one who has the background information on why we do what we do. Often times, I’ll pop up in different places to see what’s going on, and I can coach at that point. That’s because I see myself more as a coach. I’m here to help transportation employees. Since I’ve done a lot of this before, I like to show how we can work together to make sure our students are transported safely.”
Henley is also quick to remind motorists, parents, and other community members that school buses are the safest way to transport students to and from school.
“School buses are a rolling billboard, so you’re going to see a school bus wherever you go,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to always do the right thing when no one is looking. Make sure you’re stopping when the red lights flash, slowing down when the yellow lights flash. Pretend like your children are riding the school bus. At the end of the day, not respecting the school bus can be detrimental.”
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