District 211 Bus Driver Recognized for Life-Saving Actions

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Director of Transportation Jim Fleischman (left) and Bus Driver Ken Feeley pose at the Board of Education meeting where Ken was recognized for his life-saving actions.

Township High School District 211 Bus Driver Ken Feeley knows the students on his route. For the past year-and-a-half, he has driven students with special needs to school. Each morning is generally routine. He drives the same route, he greets students as they get on the bus, and he watches as parents say goodbye to their children as they are picked up for school.

One January morning something was different. Trusting his instinct, Feeley requested a police well-being check at a student’s house that ultimately led to an emergency response to a life-threatening situation. If not for Feeley’s familiarity with the students on his bus route, the student’s father could have died. Feeley was recognized for his actions by the Board of Education at its Feb. 16, 2017 meeting.

“Everyday when we get to this particular student’s house, he is either in the driveway or in the doorway. He comes right out to the curb when we turn the corner and his dad waits to watch him get on the bus,” Feeley said. “That day, the student wasn’t there.”

Feeley could see the storm door was closed, but the front door was open to the house. Both the student and his father were nowhere to be seen. With the radio-traffic quite busy that morning, Feeley asked an aide to check if the student was coming to school. When the aide returned to the bus with the student, Feeley asked him where his dad was. The autistic student could only reply by saying “basement.”

Knowing that the student’s father had health issues, Feeley called District 211’s dispatch to call the home to make sure everything was all right. When he learned there was no answer, he persistently requested that dispatch call the Hanover Police Department for a well-being check. Upon entering the house, Hanover Police found the student’s father unresponsive, and he was rushed to the hospital.

“The setting wasn’t right,” Feeley said. “Everything was out of sync for that particular family so I requested the check. I later found out that he was taken to the hospital. I am just happy that he got the care he needed and that he is okay.”

Jim Fleischman, director of transportation in District 211, said his department was told that if no one would have found the student’s father he could have died before someone came home.

“Our drivers, especially our special education drivers, look at students on their route as part of their family,” Fleischman said. “That is how they treat and interact with them. They also try to interact with the students’ parents as much as they can.”

Fleischman said Feeley’s actions are not only a testament to the type of bus driver he is, but also a reflection on the District’s transportation department.

“Some of our special education students can be with our District for a long time, and many times they have the same driver throughout their entire time with us,” Fleischman said. “This is particularly important for our special education students that may have a hard time dealing with change – it is important that they see the same driver and aides. That is the benefit to our in-house fleet compared to using an outside company that may have different drivers each morning.”

With a student population of nearly 12,000 students, having an in-house transportation system ensures safe travel and the District’s ability to oversee operations. On an average day, more than 9,700 students are transported to and from school each day. The in-house fleet allows drivers to create connections with students and their families, just as Feeley did.

In this particular case, Feeley’s connection to his students and community made the difference between life and death.