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Climbing the Ranks

Donald Saraniero is not a stranger to climbing the ranks in an organization. A school bus driver, now training to be a manager reflects his time serving our country. Enlisted in October 2007 as a United States Marine, he worked hard and jumped on opportunities.

In the Marine Corps, Donald entered as a Military Police Officer. His dedication and excellent performance were recognized early, and he was selected to specialize as a Military Dog Handler. His passion to serve his fellow citizens plus the lessons learned of valuing integrity and hard work lead to a meritorious promotion to Corporal, filling the Chief Trainer role, and serving as the unofficial Assistant Kennel Master of the K-9 Section in Hawaii. (A role reserved for those with higher ranks)

Donald’s transition into civilian life started with the beginning of the Covid pandemic. He was offered an opportunity to earn his CDL and train with All-Star Transportation to become a school bus driver. The opportunity to learn something new thrilled him. During his training, Donald showed his passion, integrity, and hard work that he learned in the United State Marine Corps.

When asked to take on other responsibilities, Donald accepted each challenge. He willingly accepted any route handed to him earning him the endearing title of “Super Spare”. He also took on added responsibility of minor bus maintenance at the Seymour Terminal. As an ambitious, hard charging Marine Donald seized the opportunity to enter the All-Star Transportation Management Program.

Here at All-Star Transportation, we are happy to shine the spotlight on Donald Saraniero for his efforts in keeping our children safe on the bus, dedication to coworkers, passion to continually learn new things, and ambition to climb the ranks.

All-Star Transportation Is Providing Better Career Prospects For Diesel Technicians

All-Star Transportation strives to provide excellent services for communities and schools in the state of Connecticut.  Regarded as a leader in CT bus transportation, it employs more than 1000 people, and safely transports 10s of thousands of students every single day.

In its commitment to community and the people that live in that community, it employs people with a variety of different skills including supervisors, dispatchers, drivers, and diesel mechanics.

To provide even more accessibility for aspiring diesel technicians to not only get into the field, but find a rewarding career with All Star transportation, they’ve partnered with Preppy a revolutionary trade and certification school.  In partnership with Auburn University, Preppy provides affordable online training at their diesel mechanic tech school.

The partnership will help more members of the community get into this exciting career, and find a satisfying career working with All Star Transportation.

No Joke in Prospect

PROSPECT – April Fool’s Day is usually filled with jokes and pranks. But not this year at the Prospect bus terminal. On April 1st, 2021, Carol Howson retired, and it was not an April Fool’s prank.

Typically, we would host a retirement party but due to Covid restrictions, guests were allowed in small numbers to see Carol and wish her well. Carol received many cards of gratitude, quite a few current and former employee visits including school and town officials, a book of memories from fellow managers, and a video compiled from some of her fellow co-workers.

Carol, who has been the manager in Prospect for over 30 years, decided to retire a few months ago after some reflection when schools were closed last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She realized what kind of life she had without having the alarm clock going off at the crack of dawn or having her phone ringing at all hours of the day and night.

Carol has not only been a manager in Prospect for over 30 years, she built a 45-year career in the school bus industry. She started driving a bus for the Dufour family back in 1976. After 4 years of driving, she had the opportunity to join the management ranks as the Naugatuck Manager for Dufour Brothers.

Over the years she has run busses for various towns such as Waterbury, Naugatuck, New Haven, Prospect, and Beacon Falls. She has also worked for many companies over the years to include Dufour Brothers, Ryder Transportation, D&L Transportation, Dufour Transportation, Laidlaw Transportation, and All-Star Transportation. But working for the Dufour family has always been the most important to her. “The Dufour family companies have always been the best to work for. They have always treated me well over the years. They trusted me to run my terminal as if it was my company and that is what I did. They have always been family to me”.

Carol has had many shining moments in her 45-year career. One of them having her daughter Kelly drive a bus for her in the Prospect lot back in the mid 1990’s. This also gave Carol the opportunity to see some of her grandchildren on a regular basis when they would ride the bus with Kelly. When asked what else really stood out over the years? She said, “Today! Having all of these people come to see me on my last day, to wish me well tells me what kind of impact I had on others.”

Having so many years in the business she was able to reflect on some of the toughest situations she has had to deal with over the years. “Having the fuel delivery guy get sprayed with gasoline and running towards the office was a difficult situation. You don’t plan for those things and you have to just react quickly”. She also mentioned how difficult this past school year has been and dealing with Covid. Just the weekend before her retirement, she was tasked to deal with some Covid issues with students and with staff members. She also mentioned that this year was so difficult because of the shortage of drivers. But Carol being the person that she is, always found a way to get it done.

She mentioned some of the things she is not going to miss such as cleaning and moving busses after a snowstorm. The hours of preparation to move the vehicle before a storm, clean off some, move vehicles, clean the rest, and then move all the vehicles again has been quite a large task in Prospect. “I am not going to miss it at all”.

When asked what she will miss the most about being the manager at the Prospect Terminal. “The people” she said. “I have been blessed to have the best set of drivers, monitors and staff – how they have stayed loyal, always acted and performed in a professional manner, and having a great work ethic. You cannot ask for anything more as a manager”.

Taking Time To Care

Anna Serrano

WATERBURY – When 9-year-old Joseph boarded a school bus this fall, he presented an immediate challenge for his driver and monitor. Joseph is deaf, and after years of being home schooled, he was riding a school bus for the first time in his life.

“We didn’t know he was starting school,” recalled Anna Serrano, the monitor for All-Star Transportation’s Bus 52 in Waterbury. “When we got to his stop, his mother told me that he doesn’t speak and is completely deaf.  I said, ‘How do I communicate with him?’ And his mother said, ‘It’s going to be hard, but he has to start school.’

“The next day I tried to get his attention, but I wasn’t able to. And so I said (to myself), ‘Ok, something has to be done. I need to learn to at least say ‘Hello’ and ‘Come with me’ so he can feel confident,” said Serrano, who has been a monitor with All-Star for six years and prior to that drove a school bus for 16 years.

To make a connection with Joseph, Serrano reached out to a friend who is a social worker and knows sign language.  “I told her my student is signaling something to me and I don’t know what he is trying to say, and it seems like it’s important,” Serrano remembered. Joseph was constantly pointing down toward his head, which she later learned was that he wanted to watch his favorite TV show, Spiderman.

Serraano’s friend asked to meet with Joseph so that she could interpret, but since that wasn’t possible, she instead provided Serrano with a sign language instruction video. Serrano took the video home and started to teach herself sign language.

“I know a few words – not a lot – but enough to be able communicate with him so that he feels confident  and safe on the bus,” she said. Serrano also talked to Joseph’s mother and his teacher about her desire to learn more sign language. The teacher invited her to class where she could learn more, and Waterbury terminal Manager Ed Costa gave his approval. Serrano’s work schedule has prevented her from attending class, but she intends to do so in the near future. In the meantime, she’s continuing to learn sign language at home and Joseph’s teacher recently gave her a sign language instruction book so that she could learn more.

Anna SerranoSerrano and Joseph now interact on a daily basis, and the driver, John Trent, has also learned enough sign language to greet Joseph each morning. Now when he sees the bus approaching each morning, Joseph jumps up and down with excitement. His mother is so pleased that she contacted the school to express her appreciation, saying that for the first time someone was caring enough to connect with her son and make him feel comfortable.

“What she’s done is really special. It demonstrates the dedication our staff has for students with special needs,” says Costa.

When asked why she has gone through so much effort for one student, Serrano said without hesitation, “I wanted him to feel safe on the bus. I wanted his commute to be friendly, and I really wanted him to feel that it was an easy transition for him – that between home and school he could feel confident that he would be taken care of and feel secure.”

And it seems that’s just what she has done.

Doing The Right Thing

Tianie Torres (l) and Priscilla Bloom

PLYMOUTH – Sometimes policies and procedures can seem arbitrary or unnecessary. But at All-Star Transportation, policies and procedures have one goal in mind – keeping drivers, monitors and, most importantly, students safe.

Recently in Plymouth, a driver and monitor who followed All-Star procedures were able to help a student suffering a health issue arrive home safely.

Priscilla Bloom, a driver with more than 25 years’ experience, said that when 8-year-old Mary got on the bus after school, the school nurse told her to keep an eye on Mary because she was a bit out of sorts. Mary, a second grader, is a severe diabetic, Bloom explained.

Once the bus left the school, things began to go bad for Mary.

“Her sugar went down and she started to get shaky,” said Tianie Torres, who has served as the monitor on Plymouth Bus 13 since joining All-Star a year ago.

“She (Mary) has a pump, and its alarm started going off, indicating that her numbers were crashing,” Bloom added.

Following procedures, Bloom radioed the school and asked to speak immediately with the school nurse. “Good, bad or whatever’s going on, we communicate every day,” Bloom said of her relationship with the school nurse. The nurse said to give Mary a special pill that she carries with her, and that’s what they did.

“She still wasn’t feeling good, so I called back in and was told to give her apple juice. We stayed in contact with the nurse and who was in contact with her parents. We got her home safely. If she had needed more medical assistance, I would have pulled over and stopped the bus.”

Throughout the ordeal, Torres sat with Mary, comforting her and doing whatever Bloom told her to do.

Carol Giannini, the nursing coordinator for Plymouth Public Schools, was so impressed with how Bloom and Torres handled the situation that she wrote about it to Plymouth Schools Superintendent Martin Semel.

“I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know what an amazing job the bus driver on 13 (Ms. Priscilla) and her aide did this afternoon when a student was having a medical issue,” Giannini wrote. “They radioed in for help, were clear, gave me pertinent information and then followed instructions to help the student. Everything was fine in the end…and everyone did everything right. Student is home and mom was very happy with the care she received from the driver and aide.”

Gianni wrote further, “I called the bus company and spoke with them to let them know what an amazing, professional group of drivers we have here at PCS (and I’m sure across town, too).  Not only were they great this time, but they have handled other difficult situations with the same professionalism.”

Reflecting on what happened, Bloom and Torres seemed surprised by the attention. Afterall, they were simply doing their jobs and following procedures.

End Of A Long Trip

George Blake

MONROE – What do you do if you grow up with a bus lot in your backyard? Well, if you’re George Blake you build a 55-year career in the school bus and transportation field.

Blake, the long-time dispatcher for All-Star Transportation at its terminal in Monroe, retired from the school bus business on Tuesday. His co-workers sent him off with a retirement luncheon and a few parting gifts, including a special wristwatch.

“I grew up with a bus yard in my back yard. I’ve been pushing buses for 55 years,” Blake said. “I started when I was 10 and got my driver’s license when I was 18.”

Retirement partyHe explained that his father owned and operated a transportation company in Ansonia – Blake Bus Service and Fitzgerald Bus Company. As a 10-year-old, he hopped behind the wheel of a school bus and drove it to a nearby gas station that was selling gasoline for 10 cents a gallon. It was too good a deal to pass up. But as he was going down the road, a police officer pulled him over to ask him what he was doing. When he told the officer he was trying to purchase cheap gas, he was allowed to go on his way.

You name it, and Blake has done it – he’s been a bus driver, bus company owner, dispatcher and more. Over his long career, he’s also put in a lot of miles in Connecticut and beyond.

Retirement watch“I missed the first three days of my senior year in high school because I was bringing buses from Blue Bird back to Connecticut,” he said.

At age 65, he decided to retire because his wife retired in the fall. Blake says he doesn’t have any immediate plans, other than to enjoy his grandchildren and to rest. “My wife is the boss, and she wants to move,” he added, so a relocation to someplace down south may be in the future.

Reflecting on his long career, he said simply, “I’ve done it all.”

A Graceful Exit

Bruce Koerber

If you go looking for Bruce Koerber at All-Star Transportation’s maintenance facility in Seymour, you won’t find him there anymore. After 14 years with All-Star, Koerber retired on Friday – one day after his 66th birthday.

Retirement party“I don’t know what I’m going to do, “ Koerber said during a retirement luncheon held in his honor on Friday. “Relax. I’m going to do some traveling and spend some time with the grandkids.”

He noted that a friend gave him a book listing 5,000 places around the world to visit, but added, “I’m not a big world traveler. I would, however, like to go on a cruise soon.”

Retirement partyPrior to serving as the shop manager in Seymour, Koerber worked for Shaker Lincoln-Mercury for 27 years. As he noted, he started at the bottom and worked his way up from being a mechanic to becoming a manager.

Surrounded by managers from other All-Star terminals and his staff, Koerber reflected on what he’ll miss most about the job during his retirement.

“I’m going to miss the guys and the people,” the lifelong Watertown resident +said. “They have always been great.”

Unity Day In Wolcott

Unity Day T-shirts

WOLCOTT – Unity Day was celebrated in great fashion at All-Star Transportation’s terminal in Wolcott. The drivers in Wolcott designed their own T-shirts that they wore on Unity Day, Wednesday, Oct. 23.

Unity Day T-shirtsOn Unity Day, people across the country were encouraged to wear orange to visibly show that our society believes that no child should ever experience bullying.

Unity Day T-shirtsFor the 2019-2020 school year, the Wolcott staff has adopted “Be Kind, Be Nice” as its motto.  “As school bus drivers we must teach by example, every child has a right to be safe, respected and to feel comfortable in any setting,” says Wolcott Manager Brenda Johnson. “With our positive team motto, we can make a difference!”

A Point Of Pride

Certificate presentation

WARREN – Liz Butler’s 25 years of safe driving were celebrated last night when the Regional School District No. 6 named her October’s “Points of Pride” recipient.

Region 6 Superintendent Christopher Leone presented Butler with a certificate during a Board of Education meeting at the Warren School. Students created poster that was presented at the meeting. The students estimated that Butler has driven 20,000 miles without an incident.

Butler, her son and her daughter are all school bus drivers for All-Star Transportation. And before they began driving, Liz’s father drove her same route in Warren for more than 30 years. The family was featured in an earlier story posted on All-Star’s website.

Torrington Drivers Become State Certified Trainers

New state certified trainers

TORRINGTON – It was a busy summer for All-Star trainers, but for two trainers from Torrington it was double duty. Not only did Szilvia Csenski and Rosa Fernandez train new drivers this summer, they also worked to become State Certified Trainers.

To become  certified, the two veteran drivers first attended and passed a pre-qualify day in June. They were among 20 trainers from throughout Connecticut to participate. During pre-qualifying, they had to perform a pre-trip as if they were teaching new students while a DMV inspector and master certified trainer looked on. Upon completion of that task, they had to board a bus where a master trainer took a set and pretended to be a new trainee. They had to lead the “trainee” through a passenger pick-up, a railroad crossing and road course. During the road course, Csenski and Fernandez had to explain rules of road, and how to safely and defensively drive a school bus. At the end of the day, 11 of the 20 trainers made it through to the next step, which was 40 hours of classroom instruction at DMV offices in Wethersfield.

The first day of the week-long classroom program generated lots of nerves as the trainers were required to deliver a five-minute presentation. The rest of the week then consisted of learning the skills needed to serve as a state certified trainer. And the word didn’t stop when classes ended for the day because each student had to go home and prepare a 20-minute presentation for their final assignment. In the end, the Torrington duo passed and were awarded their state instructor ID cards.