Poland transitions to new transportation supervisor
Dec. 11, 2020
Now-retired Poland Central School District Transportation Supervisor Jeff DeLucia (left) and new Transportation Supervisor Eric Taylor (right) pose by a school bus on Wednesday, Dec. 2. Taylor started with the district on Monday, Nov. 30, bringing with him more than 20 years of experience in transportation.
POLAND – After 10 years’ service as Poland Central School District transportation supervisor, Jeff DeLucia has shifted into retirement, and new Transportation Supervisor Eric Taylor has taken the wheel.
Whether it’s DeLucia reflecting on his more than 30-year career at Poland Central School District as bus driver and transportation supervisor or Taylor looking ahead to the future of the department, safely getting students to and from school is their predominant goal.
DeLucia worked his last day as transportation supervisor on Monday, Nov. 30, which was also Taylor’s first day with the district. Although DeLucia is officially retired, Poland Superintendent Laura Dutton said that DeLucia was offered the opportunity to receive some per diem days to support Taylor’s transition. DeLucia also has been appointed as a substitute bus driver on days he’s available.
DeLucia said he considers keeping students safe to be the most important focus during his time as supervisor.
“The safety of the students was always my biggest concern,” he said. “If all the kids got home safe at the end of the day, then everything else was just minor.”
Prepared, productive, proud
DeLucia started at Poland in October 1990 as a school bus driver and never would have anticipated becoming the transportation supervisor.
When he first started, DeLucia recalls, “I didn’t think I’d be here five years.”
He went on to spend about 20 years as a bus driver – including a BOCES bus run and special education bus run – before applying for and becoming the transportation supervisor in 2010.
A couple of the accomplishments he is proud of are working with district leadership to get a bigger “drivers’ room” for Transportation Department meetings and training and standardizing the school bus fleet with IC buses to make parts and repair functions more efficient.
Most of all, he thinks about students arriving at school and back at home safely each day and times such as snowstorms when his biggest worries were about students being transported safely and all drivers getting back at the end of the day.
“I’m really proud of all the transportation staff,” DeLucia said. “They do the job very well. Most people don’t know all they do.”
Experience and Poland connections
Taylor has worked in transportation for more than 20 years, with a full 19 years at Birnie Bus Service, where he held multiple positions including terminal manager, area general manager, regional manager and vice president of operations.
“Most importantly, I was a school bus driver,” he said. These years as bus driver were Taylor’s first experiences with school transportation. “That’s your main job of getting kids from home to school.”
Although Taylor is a certified school bus driving instructor and NYSDMV 19A examiner, he continued to drive school buses throughout his time in the various administrative positions at Bernie Bus Services.
After having about 800 employees at Birnie Bus Service, Taylor is looking forward to working more closely with the school community and the close-knit employees in the Poland Transportation Department.
“I’m happy to be back in this kind of smaller scale where I can interact more with the drivers, parents and students,” he said. “It’s just been nice to kind of come back to the basics of the job.”
It’s different compared to his time at Birnie Bus Service, but he prefers it this way.
“I enjoy talking to parents; seeing the kids,” he said. “It’s a closer relationship with the staff and students and parents.”
Taylor also is returning to what he considers to be a very “family-oriented school,” where he has some fond memories and family connections. He attended Poland Elementary while in first grade.
“My uncle was my bus driver,” he said, with a laugh. “I can remember my teachers and everything.”
His uncle, Brian Taylor, was a school bus driver at Poland for about six years and retired from the district as a maintenance employee. Additionally, his daughter, Jessica Meyer, is currently a Poland science teacher.
Poland School Business Official Chad Hess said Taylor has exactly the set of skills and background that Poland wanted for a new transportation supervisor.
“It’s great to find someone with a connection to the district who also has a high number of years of experience in the transportation field including various leadership positions,” Hess said. “We’re very pleased to have him as transportation supervisor and are excited to have him working with the drivers and staff in moving the transportation department forward.”
‘A smooth transition’
Taylor is stepping into a position that few have held before at Poland.
“We have a history of having long-running transportation supervisors who provide stability and leadership to the department,” Hess said. “Jeff did a great job going from bus driver to transportation supervisor, running the department and now helping us transition to a new supervisor.”
Dutton agreed. Dutton indicated that Taylor assumes a position where the longevity of the department has been a source of pride. In fact, across the last 47 years, only two people have held this position.
“Robert Tabor served as the transportation supervisor for more than 37 years, before DeLucia transitioned from bus driver to transportation supervisor for the opening of school in 2010,” Dutton said.
Taylor and DeLucia have met each other a few times over the past few years from attending some of the same school bus supervisor refresher courses.
“I think it’s going to be a very smooth transition,” DeLucia said. “I believe I left the department in decent shape. My hope is that he takes it a step further and leaves the place in better shape than I did.”
Taylor said he appreciates that DeLucia is available to help with the transition and answer any questions. Taylor said things have gotten off to a good start.
“Everyone has been really welcoming and friendly – saying, ‘If you need anything, just ask,’” Taylor said. “Student safety is our main goal, and all the drivers and attendants have practiced it every day – it’s like breathing. The staff believes in it. Student safety is one of the priorities of every employee here.”
Taylor has been getting a feel for the position, getting to know people and plans to continue always looking for ways to keep improving and making things safer.
Even in the short time he has been in the role, Taylor said he can see that, “Jeff has done a great job over the years and built a lot of safety measures into the program over his tenure.”
Making the transition during the COVID-19 pandemic adds some additional considerations, but DeLucia and Taylor are well prepared.
DeLucia said he missed having students attending school at the end of last school year when the transportation department shifted to delivering meals, but the challenges presented by COVID-19 got easier as the department figured out what adjustments to make.
Superintendent Dutton praised DeLucia’s decision to delay his retirement until the district got all the details of new routing needs in place.
“Jeff’s familiarity with our school families and extensive understanding of routing was invaluable in developing limited ridership plans and ultimately to our ability to reopen school,” Dutton said. “He assumed a major undertaking in his final days as the district’s transportation supervisor, and even stayed months after school opened to make sure we were in a good place with our new arrival and dismissal patterns. Jeff’s willingness to see this through really speaks to his care for the students and our district.”
Taylor has also seen how DeLucia responded to COVID-19 and the many measures he put in place such as having bus surfaces wiped down, having masks available for students who forget a mask and having a staff member do a fog cleaning of each bus at least once per day. There also are changes for transportation due to some students attending school in person and others attending remotely.
“It’s certainly made things challenging for Jeff and for myself,” Taylor said, “but at the end of the day, it’s the safety of the students that’s at the forefront of everything.”
New Poland Central School District Transportation Supervisor Eric Taylor (left) and now-retired Transportation Supervisor Jeff DeLucia (right) sit at the transportation supervisor desk in the school bus garage on Monday, Nov. 30. DeLucia served more than 30 years in the Poland Transportation Department – first as a bus driver for about 20 years and then as transportation supervisor for about 10 years.
New Poland Central School District Transportation Supervisor Eric Taylor attended Poland Elementary for one year in first grade. He is pictured here in first grade at Poland in the second row, fourth from the left.