By Mark Ambrogi
Brad Osborne has wanted to be a bus driver since he was in first grade at John Strange Elementary in Indianapolis.
At age 59, he finally made it happen.
“Those guys were my heroes because they protected,” Osborne said. “I knew I was safe with them. They answered hundreds of my questions about the bus, their routes, their off-hour jobs. It was something I wanted to do. I forgot some of the things in life that were important. I forgot what would typically drive a person. It wasn’t being a top realtor like I had been. ”
After the death of his father, Osborne was asked what he wanted to do. It got him thinking about an old dream.
“I said, ‘I always wanted to be a bus driver.’ He said, ‘Why don’t you do it?’” Osborne said. “It never occurred to me that I really could.”
Osborne, 61, started as a bus driver in January 2015. He serves as a Carmel Clay Schools driver with Smoky Row Elementary and Carmel High School routes. His ride is known as Brad’s Cool Bus. In between routes he is co-owner with Dan Chapman of Chapman-Osborne Legacy Realtors, who has been a Carmel school bus driver as well and will likely return.
The two long-time friends started the business about two years ago, not long after Osborne asked Chapman how his bus driving job was going.
Chapman put him in touch with Ron Eshleman, administrative assistant for transportation, who is in charge of training.
Osborne said he models himself after Smoky Row bus driver Gary Haskett, whom he observed in training.
“He’s exactly what I wanted to be like. He’s courteous, interested in the kids and makes sure everyone is safe,” Osborne said. “Every day I do address the students by name, both in and out of the bus. As the kids get off the bus at Smoky Row or the high school, I’ll stand up and say goodbye by name. I’m expecting them to respond.”
Isaac Smith, a Smoky Row fifth grader, said Osborne has an impressive memory.
“By the second day, he knew everyone’s name on the bus,” Isaac said.
In addition, Osborne has learned all the names of passengers’ young siblings, who are often at the bus stop.
Smith’s twin sisters, Ellie and Linnea, are Smoky Row third graders.
“He’s nice and he says hi to us every single time we get on the bus,” Ellie said.
Ellie said if a student is having a bad day, Osborne asks what is wrong and provides a supportive ear.
“I really feels like he cares about us,” Linnea said.
When Smoky Row has fundraisers, Linnea said Osborne always shows up to support.
Their mother, Jennifer Smith, said Osborne eases the transition from home to school perfectly.
Smoky Row Principal Kim Barrett said a positive bus experience is important for students.
“Bus drivers are the first person they see when they leave their home and the last person they see when they get home,” Barrett said.
Barrett also said bus drivers can influence what kind of day the students have.
“If they have a bad experience last or first, that’s what they remember,” Barrett said. “So it’s important for bus drivers to be engaging and positive. It makes a big difference to have a great bus driver like Brad. He’s one-in-a-million.”
For Osborne, it’s the best gig around.
“It’s fun interacting with the students and their families,” he said. “I know that I can have an influence on future generations, help make school fun for the kids, and even help them see their potential when it’s not so obvious to them at this age. As a driver, it gives me a purpose and a routine every day.”
MEET BRAD OSBORNE
Personal: Children are Rob 30, Katie, 29 and Scott, 22. Wife, Meg, is a long-time swimming coach and has coached the Heritage Christian High School boys and girls swim team for several years.
Osborne’s safe place bus keys: Safe emotionally, safe transportation, acceptance of all, mutual respect. Osborne said he knows that shared experiences will create great memories. He also pointed out he knows parents like to hear what their kids are doing right.
Osborne’s songs: On the way to school, Osborne leads the kids in a song to the tune of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” — “I’m a Ready, Ready Rocket. A Ready Rocket off to school. Brad’s cool bus is the one for fun. Carmel Clay 141.” In the going-home version, Osborne said the kids like singing “home, home, home” in a deep voice. Osborne also has a CHS version. For the Bentley Oaks neighborhood with seven children at Smoky Row, there is a song to the tune of “Mack the Knife.”
Bus drivers needed
Carmel Clay Schools is seeking to hire more bus drivers. The beginning pay rate is $100.50 per day for driving both morning and afternoon bus routes, transportation supervisor Amy Beaven said.
Beaven said the district also is interested in people who might only be available in the morning or the afternoon (pay would be $50.25 per day).
Those interested can apply online through ccs.k12.in.us, under employment opportunities.
Applicants must be at least 21 years of age, be able to pass all necessary tests at the BMV and a medical exam for a Class B Commercial Driver’s License. All applicants must complete a criminal background and driving background check. Paid training is available to assist accepted applicants obtain their CDL.