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story.lead_photo.caption Janelle Jessen/Siloam Sunday Bus driver Lanny Terry is retiring after 34 years working for Siloam Springs Schools.

After spending the past 34 years driving an estimated 400,000 students some 250,000 miles, bus driver Lanny Terry is hanging up his bus keys.

Terry drove his final bus route on Thursday morning, the last day of school. He is one of three bus drivers retiring from the Siloam Springs School District this year, according to Steve Avery, transportation director. Driver Tommy Duncan, 80, is retiring after 14 years of service, and driver Mike Gray is retiring after five years of service.

Currently, Terry is the longest employed bus driver in the district, Avery said. He drives one of the longest routes, 80 to 90 miles a day, and hauls anywhere from 25 to 45 students every day. Avery estimated that over his career, Terry has transported more than 400,000 students over 250,000 miles, not including the students and miles he has driven on field trips.

"We just appreciate his service," Avery said. "(Terry's) been consistent and just been a cornerstone of our department for a lot of years. He is really good, he's made our department better by being here, bottom line. He's got good input and he doesn't cram it down anybody's throat. He makes good suggestions and he's always doing it in the attitude of making things safer for kids. He's definitely made us better as a whole. He will be sorely missed."

Terry said he initially started driving a school bus because he built a new home and the payments were more than he anticipated. A coworker at Franklin Electric suggested he apply to be a school bus driver, and former transportation director Bill Davis hired Terry and put him to work, he said.

Terry worked two jobs for 26 years, then when Franklin Electric closed down about eight years ago, he decided to focus solely on driving a bus and asked for a longer route.

Terry said his wife has battled five different types of cancer over the past two decades and has developed quite a few health problems, he said. Now that he is retiring, he is looking forward to spending more time with her and having a more flexible schedule so they can travel together.

It takes an extreme amount of patience and a lot of commitment to be a school bus driver for 34 years, Avery said. Terry has been incredibly dependable over the years, rarely missing a day of work despite his wife's illnesses, which makes a big difference to students, Avery said.

"That consistency of having the same driver on the same route, the same expectations, the same consistent way they handle situations and students, that's highly crucial," he said.

Terry has seen quite a few changes over his career as a bus driver. Students who were seniors in high school when he started driving are now in their 50s.

When Terry was hired, the bus barn consisted of two metal buildings behind Southside Elementary School. In the early days, there were no radios or cell phones so if a bus broke down, the driver had to put an older kid in charge and walk to the nearest house to call for help. Now, buses are equipped with radios, satellite communication systems and cameras to make sure students stay safe, he said.

One thing that has stayed the same is the students.

"About the students, kids are kids," he said.

Some kids are well behaved while others are not, Terry said, but either way he tries to treat them fairly and keeps in mind they may be facing challenges he doesn't know about.

"I know they think sometimes you are picking on them. ... To get them to sit down you have to call their name and tell them to sit down, get out of the isle, stuff like that," he said.

However, safety has always been Terry's priority, Avery said. Sometimes the students may think Terry is tough, but he is always watching out for them, he explained.

Terry's eyes sparkle when he talks about the relationships he has built with students over the years. He has enjoyed watching students change and grow. Some start out pretty ornery and then grow and mature, he said.

"It's an experience everyday, I could tell you stories," Terry said, with a smile.

General News on 05/27/2018

Print Headline: Bus driver retires after 34 years on the road

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