September 24, 2013
This week’s five-question interview is with Georgia Cornell, who was born in Southeast D.C. and started work with MCPS as a bus operator in 1973. She says she gets her attitude from her dad, who worked as an electrician at the Navy Yard, and her good nature from her mother, who worked in the accounting offices of the Esther Shop Children clothing store. Between Aug. 27, 2012 and June 14, 2013, Cornell and two coworkers booked 12,054 field trips.
You told me you have the best job in MCPS. Tell me why.
Oh, I do! It’s very rewarding. I work with such good people. I don’t look at it as a job. We’re a family. When something goes down, we all stick together. I haven’t regretted a day. My parents taught me two things: to respect people and to know what you have. I’m very fortunate to be an employee of Montgomery County Public Schools.
If a bus operator is doing a weekend run, I’ll make sure they have money for lunch. I’m not rich, but I’m looking out for them. It’s a long day out there. It’s hot. When the kids went to the county fair, I brought a cooler with frozen bottled water for the drivers.
I started as a bus operator in 1973 and I loved it. … I drove a special education bus. You adopt those kids; they’re yours. Some of these kids, you don’t know what kind of home life they have. They get on and you say ‘Good morning!’ and that shocks them right there. If you give them respect, you get it back.
What is it like scheduling every field trip in MCPS? It must get very hectic.
Well, there is no typical day. We’ve already scheduled 848 trips for October. It’s a puzzle, but once you get all the pieces in and everything’s working, it’s wonderful.
Often people will call me stressed or upset because they forgot to schedule a bus. I mean, why be hyper? That doesn’t help anything. I have a few rules for my life. One of them is: Never promise what you can’t produce.
Our drivers are excellent. The coaches have my home and cell numbers and sometimes, they’ll call with a problem. If I need to call drivers in, I will. Sometimes you have to beg.
It [Having to call drivers in] happens a lot. There’s no regular hours. I leave the house at 7 a.m. and go by West Farm Depot on my way in to the office. I leave once I make sure all the routes are under way. Sometimes, that’s 5. Sometimes, it’s 6 or 7.
What do you do on the weekends?
I do yard work. I’m a sports fan; I like the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers. I like basketball – Maryland, of course! I live in College Park. I like wrestling and the roller derby. I’m content; I really am.
When we have weekend trips, I work on Saturdays. I come in to make sure everyone has what they need. It’s my choice to come in. So instead of drivers calling me on a cellphone, they can call me on the radio. I feel responsible for them.
How do you think you support student success?
I want [students] to go on field trips and see what they’re learning outside the classroom. I hope it will trigger something in them so they say, ‘I can do that’ or ‘I want to learn more about that.’
This is a team. All of us—the bus operators, the bus attendants, the dispatchers, supervisors, safety and training, those that work in the automotive shop … We do it for the kids. We’re here for the teachers to make their programs a success.
Do you ever think about retiring?
No. I’m programmed. I like what I do. I told Todd [Watkins, director of transportation] I’m gonna stay until his hair goes gray.
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