Bonnie Whitehurst’s return to the top spot in the LCPS Bus Road-E-O, the school’s district annual driving skills competition, also means her return to regional competition on Thursday. Like all good school bus drivers, she knows the route well.
“I’ve been one time before and placed in the top 10 and went to state,” said Whitehurst, a teacher assistant at Northwest Elementary School who’s been driving for LCPS since 1995. “I just think it’s a learning experience. It’s a lot of fun.”
The regional road-e-o pits the best drivers from a dozen school districts in southeastern North Carolina. LCPS is sending its top two drivers from the county competition — first-place finisher Whitehurst, who also advanced a few years back after winning the county event, and Frink Middle School driver and teacher assistant Daniel Wetherington. The top 10 finishers in the regional competition move on to state competition, held in Raleigh in May.
Whitehurst and Wetherington have already run — or driven — the gauntlet. The county road-e-o held April 4 drew 41 competitors and tested driver’s skills in six obstacles, such as backing to a fixed point and navigating a serpentine course.
Whitehurst started driving a school bus when her son was a student at Northwest. “To tell you the truth, that’s why I started driving. He wanted to ride the school bus and — me watching, following behind one day — I said, ‘I’ve got to do this.'” He started riding my bus.”
She drove part-time and worked a few hours in the school cafeteria every day until a position as a teacher assistant opened up. That was more than two decades ago and the appeal of bus driving is the same for Whitehurst now as it was in the beginning. It’s all about the children.
“Just the fact of being able to have the relationship with the children,” she said. “With us picking them up and taking them home everyday, we’re the first face (from school) they see and the last face they see. It helps us get familiar with their situation because we know where they’re going and where they’re coming from.”
She is married to Scott Whitehurst and their son, Brandon, is now 26.