It takes nerves of steel and the patience of a saint to drive a school bus. Monterey COE Chapter 35 member Greg Perez was lauded for both and more when he was named the 2015 California Highway Patrol Bus Driver of the Year.
Perez, a 34-year veteran driver, has logged nearly 800,000 accident-free miles while transporting special-needs students around Monterey County—the equivalent of circling the globe 31 times without even a fender-bender.
The Highway Patrol honored Perez in late May as the state’s best driver in its Southern California area. The award is given annually to a school bus driver who has shown outstanding performance and exceeded expectations.
“This is a big deal, said Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow. “I don’t think many people realize what Greg and the state’s 34,000 other bus drivers are asked to do. We entrust them with our children’s safety. It’s a huge responsibility, and Greg does it quietly, efficiently and safely, every single day.”
As a special-needs bus driver, Perez transports students ranging from pre-kindergarten to 22 years old. He attends monthly training sessions on safety, first aid, fire equipment, bus evacuation and procedures specific to transporting special-needs students. Perez said the students are his top priority.
“When I wake up in the morning, I’m thinking about the kids,” Perez said. “I’ve got kids I’ve been driving for 10–15 years.”
In addition to being named School Bus Driver of the Year, Perez received the Commissioner’s Medal of Distinction, the Highway Patrol’s highest honor, and a resolution from the California State Senate.
“Greg stands out for the dedication he shows to his students,” said Nancy Kotowski, Monterey County Superintendent of Schools. “To him, they are ‘his children’ and their comfort and safety are his top priority.”
Perez said that he began driving bus right out of high school. When he took the job, he wasn’t sure how long it would be for, but he realized he simply loves driving the school bus.
“It’s been a rewarding job,” he said. “Every day is different—an adventure with the kids, parents, co-workers and what you see on the road.”
Association President Michael Bilbrey lauded Perez and his dedication to his students. “Our school bus drivers carry the most precious cargo to and from school every day. My hat is off to all of our dedicated and skilled school bus drivers,” he said. “Please join me in congratulating Greg for his service to Monterey County students, and for winning these distinct honors.”