PORTVILLE, NY – A whiteboard with dozens of destinations and vehicle numbers written in various colors sits inside the Portville bus garage, ready to be changed at any moment. David Youngs, the transportation supervisor of the Portville and Olean School Districts, knows that before 2 almost every afternoon, he is likely to receive an email changing the entire meticulously planned schedule .
“The mental part of the job is the hardest part of all,” Youngs said. “It’s all a big chess game. You have to look a few moves ahead because you don’t know what’s going to happen… That whole board can change in an hour.”
Youngs is in charge of 45 different employees, 22 full-sized buses, a minibus, seven vans, a car and three trucks, all of which need to be looked at and maintained daily. Sick and personal days for employees must also be taken into consideration when planning vehicle runs. Sometimes, Youngs has to fill in for a driver. The Olean and Portville districts have a daily total of 32 runs as well as approximately 800 sports and field trips a year, so having drivers available is a necessity.
And those totals do not include special cases of “displaced children,” who need to be placed in out-of-district residences because of house fires or domestic incidents. If such situations involve less than five children, a bus cannot be used. Instead, a van driver has "gone as far as Franklinville, Bradford, Wellsville, Salamanca, a max of 50 miles one way,” Youngs said.
During the winter months, Youngs drives out at about 4 o'clock to check the road conditions so he can better plan morning bus routes.
“You can tell what roads need checked,” Youngs said. “After 10 years, you know what roads are prone to trouble.”
Youngs has been Portville’s transportation supervisor for 10 years, and added management of the Olean routes to his job when the two school districts began a transportation share in the 2010-11 school year. He began his career in the transportation industry with Bluebird Coach Lines in 1984.
In addition to the bus routes and maintenance of the vehicles and bus garage, Youngs is also charged with viewing the videos taped during bus runs so he can help resolve disciplinary issues.
He also makes sure the parking lot around Portville Central School has the appropriate school vehicles in the appropriate spots and helps regulate issues at Portville’s Fuel Farm, which is a Portville Town Barn property and a shared fueling station between the Weston Mills Fire Department, the Portville Fire Department, the Portville Village Highway Department, the Town of Portville Highway Department and the Portville Central School District.
And he helps teach mostly new drivers how to properly use the diesel fueling station, making sure pump filters work in winter, troubleshooting pump problems and suggesting solutions.
“We’re here for the kids,” Youngs said, “We’re here to accommodate them for the trips they want to take."
He concluded, "Even if we run into trouble, we always try to find a way to make things work.”