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Bus driver takes top spot in local Roade-O

Imagine steering a school bus in and out of five cones set at a close proximity and then doing it again, backwards, without stopping or bumping the markers. This and other grueling tests is what Jimmy Poole, driver of special needs bus #42, had to successfully complete to take first place in Fayette’s School Bus Roade-O competition last month.

Poole’s first place victory secures him a place in the statewide competition June 8 in Warner Robins. Joining him will be second place winner Kathy Warden and third place winner Sherry Harris.

Poole, who has been a driver for the school system for three years, said he did not expect to take first place. He credits trainers Kathy Warden and Michael Dixon, last year’s local winner and 10th place finisher at the state competition, with his win.

“I practiced the day before with the trainers. The first 5-6 times I went through the course, I knocked down cones and ran over tennis balls. I just listened to the trainers as they guided me on how to use the mirrors, properly apply the breaks and maneuver turns. I couldn’t have done it without them,” he said.

Poole, who is used to driving a smaller bus, had to use a regular size bus for the competition, making the event a bit more challenging for him than for other drivers. He says he is proud to have taken part in the event because it has sharpened his skills. Transportation Director Michael Jennings says skills improvement is exactly what the event is all about.

“This is our most realistic instructional tool available to improve driver skills. Safety competitions have proven to be one of the most effective instructional tools to improve a driver’s skills,” Jennings said.

When Poole is not driving he works in the school system’s bus shop cleaning and fueling buses. He says he could not have won the competition if the bus shop staff had not stepped in to give him the time off to practice.

“I have the utmost confidence in the safety of the buses that we send out. I see on a daily basis how hard these guys work to maintain our fleet. I want to thank them for covering for me so that I could do this,” Poole added.

Michael Dixon, last year’s winner and owner of Dixon Vending, donated prize money for the top three finishers. Poole received $75, Warden $50 and Harris $25.

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